A Green Victory: McDonald's swaps out foam cups for paper
By Laura Hogg
From the NatuREport Blog Series
Welcome back to NatuREport! This week in the news – McDonald’s recently announced their plan to start ditching foam cups in favor of the paper variety. So how bad are foam cups, exactly?
I’ve always been unsettled by Styrofoam. Maybe it’s because the sound of it scraping together absolutely drives me nuts (seriously – don’t even talk about it. I’m already regretting writing that down). Maybe it’s because I knew, vaguely, that it takes a really long time to decompose. But either way – I knew it wasn’t good.
That’s why I was glad to hear this week that, due to shareholder pressure, McDonald’s is taking steps to get rid of foam cups and replace them with paper cups.
This is an important victory for the green movement for two reasons. Namely:
1) Polystyrene foam is absolutely awful for the environment.
Yep – it turns out that my unsettled feelings were justified. There’s no doubt about it: polystyrene is bad news for Mother Nature. Most of it ends up in landfills, where it takes roughly five hundred years to decompose.
Five. Hundred. Years. And that’s for one cup. To put this into perspective: if Mickey D’s had been around in the Middle Ages, their coffee cups would just now be breaking down. Combined with the fact that an estimated 25 billion (yes, billion) polystyrene cups are thrown out every year, that…is kind of terrifying. When you consider what McDonald’s alone must contribute to that staggering figure, ditching the foam could be hugely beneficial to the environment.
Obviously, reusable cups would be the optimal choice, but let’s face it – that’s not happening in a fast food restaurant. Paper cups break down far faster and have a much smaller environmental footprint.
And, perhaps even more encouragingly:
2) It shows that, sometimes, big companies listen.
As I wrote previously, McDonald’s recently removed “pink slime” from its burgers. They claim that their decision had nothing to do with consumer pressure, but come on. Had this occurred before celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s anti-pink-slime campaign, I might have believed them. But as it is – with pink slime gone and foam cups on the way out – one thing is loud and clear: consumers’ concerns don’t always fall on deaf ears.
To be clear, here, we’re talking about the second-largest food franchise in the world (it’s second, oddly, to Subway). I am by no means an advocate for McDonald’s, but I think it’s pretty awesome that a company that massive is taking steps to listen to environmental and health concerns. Sure, it’s good for their image (and potentially their bottom line) but a victory is a victory, no? It sounds cliché, but I hope that this news serves as a reminder: sometimes, the little guy’s voice does get heard.
I never thought I’d say this, but this is one instance where I hope other food establishments will follow McDonald’s lead.
What do you think of McDonald’s decision to ditch the foam? What do you do to avoid using Styrofoam?