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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
McDonald’s, Loop Partner on Industry-First Cup Return Scheme

Beginning in 2021, McDonald's customers in select UK restaurants will be able to choose a reusable hot beverage cup, which can be returned to be sanitized and reused.

This week, McDonald’s Corporation announced a global partnership with TerraCycle’s circular packaging service, Loop, to test a new reusable cup model for hot beverages. The initiative, which will first be trialed in 2021 across select McDonald’s restaurants in the UK, will enable customers to enjoy hot drinks from McDonald’s in a durable, reusable, Loop-created cup — in order to cut down on packaging waste.

The reusable cups will be available for a small deposit — the deposit can then be redeemed by returning the cup to participating McDonald's UK restaurants, in order to be washed and sanitized through the Loop system and reused again in McDonald’s restaurants.

“We’re on a journey to rethink how we package products to give customers options that reduce waste, maintain the highest safety standards, and enhance the McDonald’s experience they expect and enjoy. That’s an innovation challenge, and it’s one we think the Loop model has potential to help us solve,” said Jenny McColloch, McDonald’s VP of Global Sustainability. “We’re excited to assess how new reusable packaging models could work within our system as we accelerate circular packaging solutions with our partners around the globe.”

While McDonald’s has been working for the past few years with Starbucks and Closed Loop Partners on solutions to reduce single-use beverage use waste through its participation in the NextGen Cup Challenge, this reusable cup pilot could also help mitigate the extra packaging waste generated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic — as many businesses banned the use of reusable items and packaging, for safety reasons.

Speaking of which, the Loop partnership meets McDonald’s cleanliness and safety standards, which have only become more important throughout the pandemic. Loop's cleaning system was scientifically developed in partnership with Ecolab — so, each cup is sanitized before each use, making it as safe and hygienic as a single-use cup.  

"This groundbreaking partnership with McDonald's enables Loop to greatly expand its reach by bringing convenient reusable packaging options to the food service industry," said TerraCycle and Loop CEO Tom Szaky. “The partnership paves the way for reusables to become an accessible option for consumers as they enjoy their meal on the go."