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McDonald’s Looking for Sustainable Cup Customers Will Use

Source: tmsw.com

It was about two decades ago when fast food restaurants, cafés, and commercial kitchens began looking for alternatives to the foam and plastic drink cups they were using. Most ended up with a paper cup that made convincing customers they were being environmentally responsible easier. Now McDonald’s is looking beyond the paper cup for a more sustainable product that customers will want to use.

McDonald’s is currently trying a variety of cups in Ireland. They are asking customers to try the cups and offer their feedback. Until a new cup is officially launched, the company will be adding an extra charge when customers request paper cups.

Paper Cups and Plastic Liners

Source: storaenso.com

I was in my mid-30s when the paper cup craze took off. The company I was working for at the time provided cloth diapers as an alternative to plastic disposables. Although I did not personally believe in the environmental message, I was compelled to promote cloth diapers as being more environmentally friendly.

My employer made the switch from foam to paper coffee cups during the early 90s. It did not take long for me to discover that paper cups were a scam. After all, paper does not reliably hold liquids of any temperature. So how did a paper coffee cup manage to hold my coffee? Via a plastic liner.

Those plastic-lined paper cups were no better for the environment than the foam cups they replaced. That hasn’t stopped manufacturers from producing and selling billions of paper cups over the last several decades. But now, reality is finally catching up. Paper cups are no longer the panacea they were supposed to be.

New Cups and Lids

Getting back to McDonald’s, they are on a mission to eventually eliminate the plastic-lined paper cup along with the plastic lid that covers it. They are hoping to come up with an all-paper or plant starch solution. But here is the thing: they are looking for more than a receptacle for liquids. They want a cup that passes the proverbial sniff test.

McDonald’s is testing different cup designs for their organoleptic features. Organoleptic is the science of texture, mouth feel, and taste. If one of their new cups alters the taste of the liquids they hold or feels uncomfortable when placed in the mouth, it’s a no-go. It is back to the drawing board for McDonald’s.

Trying to Solve the Plastics Problem

Source: buzzfeednews.com

The pursuit of a new cup and lid is part of a larger global effort to solve the plastics problem. While McDonald’s and other corporate giants look to find new ways to package products and serve food, companies like Seraphim Plastics continue successfully recycling industrial plastic scrap at a profit.

Seraphim Plastics acquires scrap from companies all over the country. They run the scrap through grinders to produce plastic regrind they can turn around and sell to manufacturers. Unfortunately, while companies like Seraphim can successfully recycle industrial plastics, no one has found a comparable way to recycle consumer plastics – like paper cups and plastic lids.

Rather than find a way, McDonald’s and many of its corporate counterparts would simply do away with the plastic-paper combination and go to something that is completely biodegradable and sustainable. That’s fine. They certainly have the right and freedom to do so. But something tells me that their search for a new cup and lid is going to be a long one.

I don’t think we are ever going to replace plastic. I think it’s here to stay. So perhaps we should put our efforts into developing better ways to recycle it.