McDonald's serving up greener breakfasts

Fast-food chain McDonald's Singapore has decided to stop the use of styrofoam packaging for its breakfast meals across outlets islandwide.

In response to media queries, McDonald's said it has, since early last month, been gradually phasing out the use of styrofoam and switching to paper packaging instead.

"In line with our continual sustainability efforts, we have worked with our suppliers to switch from styrofoam packaging to paper packaging to serve our breakfast platters such as Big Breakfast and Hotcakes," said Ms Carolyn Khiu, McDonald's Restaurants' director of corporate communications, e-commerce and customer relations.

The fast-food giant, which, in the past, used styrofoam cups and burger boxes, among other items, has over the years switched much of its packaging to greener ones.

The move to stop the use of styrofoam comes after an online petition was launched in January, with support from more than 700 people, asking the chain to replace non-biodegradable styrofoam with recycled packaging. Styrofoam is non-biodegradable and, if not disposed properly, can pollute waterways and harm wildlife.

The petition noted that while McDonald's Singapore had adopted environmentally friendly practices such as using recycled paper for napkins and takeaway bags, it was still using styrofoam for its breakfast items, unlike outlets in places like Hong Kong.

When contacted yesterday, Mr Adrian Tan, 38, who started the petition with his friend, said he hopes the McDonald's decision will inspire other food and drinks outlets to use more environmentally friendly packaging.

"In the long run, we must change the habit of using disposable items just simply for convenience - otherwise the heart of the issue will not be solved," said Mr Tan, a music conductor.

Speaking to The Straits Times, Mr Eugene Tay, founder and director of consultancy Green Future Solutions, said while he welcomed the move by McDonald's, there was a need to look at sustainability on the whole.

Other aspects, such as recycling food waste, should also be looked into, he said, adding: "Paper is biodegradable, but it's also important to know whether it comes from sustainable sources. Otherwise it would just be transferring the environmental impact from one material to another."

McDonald's Singapore has more than 130 restaurants islandwide, not including its drive-through, dessert kiosks and McCafe outlets.

When asked, fast-food chain KFC said it uses styrofoam packaging for "very selected breakfast menu items". It will, however, review its packaging materials.

Additional reporting by Samantha Boh

This article was first published on October 2, 2015.
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