Alexandra Kain

Student Designs Biodegradable Packaging for McDonald's

by , 03/18/09

mcdonald's packaing, sustainable design, product packaging, biodegradable materials, green design, green mcdonald's, green golden arches, andrew millar, university of the arts student, compostable materials

Fast food packaging takes up a hefty chunk of our landfill space while effectively clear-cutting our forests. The golden arch proprietors dole out over 2 billion burgers a year, each individually wrapped in plastic coated paper and thrown into a paper bag with a few paper napkins–that’s about 75 per second, worldwide. Toss in a dozen other fast food conglomerates and we’re up to our ears in greasy garbage. What’s worse is that most of this paper makes its way into a trashcan after only about 5 minutes of use. Seeking to counter this consumptive cycle, University of the Arts grad student, Andrew Millar, designed biodegradable packaging for McDonald’s from grass paper, which has naturally grease-resistant properties.

mcdonald's packaing, sustainable design, product packaging, biodegradable materials, green design, green mcdonald's, green golden arches, andrew millar, university of the arts student, compostable materials

In preparation for this school assignment, Millar frequented McD’s restaurants taking note of customer interaction with the packaging. Noticing that people would often rip their bags into a tray, he designed his bag to open out into a comfortable eating station. Folds in the bag keep inside items separated without the need for interior packaging. The outer part of bag is made from recycled pulp paper, and grease-proof grass paper lines the inside. Both are highly biodegradable and most definitely more sustainable than clear-cutting.

According to their most recent environmental performance report, only around 30% of McDonald’s packaging comes from recycled sources (excluding China), and their CO2 emissions near 2 million tons annualy–as measured by electricity used in their restaurants. This, of course, does not including food or packaging production.

mcdonald's packaing, sustainable design, product packaging, biodegradable materials, green design, green mcdonald's, green golden arches, andrew millar, university of the arts student, compostable materials

As yet, Millar hasn’t approached the company about his design but we’re sure hoping he does. The McDonald’s website clearly states their desire to “continue exploring ways to reduce the environmental impacts of our consumer packaging and waste in our restaurant operations.” Even leviathans like McDonald’s and Burger King are not impervious to climate change and our growing garbage problem. The only problem with biodegradable packaging, though, is that it won’t actually biodegrade if it goes straight into a plastic trash bag and gets buried in chemical-ridden landfill. The best solution? Stop eating fast food.

+ Andrew Millar

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3 Comments

  1. BBrandDesign October 31, 2011 at 5:27 am

    Very interesting post! Thank you. Food packaging is packaging for food. It requires protection, tampering resistance, and special physical, chemical, or biological needs. It also shows the product that is labeled to show any nutrition information on the food being consumed.

  2. pah November 30, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    International Paper Company has already developed biodegradeable paper products for fast food. The companies are reticient to purchase them because they have products already stockpiled, the new products cost more and we as consumers do not pressure them to change anything that might cause us inconvenience or greater cost.

  3. Jeremy March 19, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Nice. Not nice enough to make me eat at McDonalds, should they ever adopt it. But nice.

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