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Academics call out McDonald’s for misleading packaging reports

Photo of a burger and chips in single use packaging. Photo by ready made via Pexels.

58 academics have joined forces with two NGOs, the Environmental Paper Network and Fern, to draft a letter to MEPs warning them about misleading industry funded studies, including those by McDonald’s and the European Paper and Packaging Association. The letter highlights that the reports directly contradict the European Commission’s Impact Assessment and the UN report on single-use, and are sowing doubt about policies to reduce single-use packaging.

Industry reports claim that single-use paper packing is often more sustainable than reusable options in quick service restaurants. McDonald’s No Silver Bullet report questions policies banning single-use packaging in dine-in contexts and challenges reuse targets for various forms of packaging.


The group of academics, all of whom specialise in impact assessments, agreed that the industry-funded reports were flawed through overestimating transport weights of reusable products as well as washing and transport logistics, causing critical skews in the results of impact assessments. The letter also stresses that comparing single-use packaging with a static snapshot of alternative reusable packing is misleading, as it does not take into account the subsequent reuses where further single-use packaging is required. Instead scenarios must compare the ‘break-even point - point at which reuse systems become environmentally advantageous. The letter emphasises that impact assessments that do not have transparent data, respect for established frameworks and that have not been peer-reviewed cannot be considered good assessments and must be treated with caution when considering their results. 

Read the full article here and read this report from FoodPrint on packaging.

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