McDonald’s Pilots Reusable Coffee Mugs

The U.K. test will happen next year as part of the chain’s effort to curb cup waste.

September 15, 2020

LONDON—In 2021, McDonald’s will run a test on reusable cups in the United Kingdom as part of its commitment to reduce disposable cup usage and address customer concerns about single-use packaging, CNN Business reports. Restaurants participating in the test also will offer disposable cups to customers who don’t want a reusable mug.

The reusable mug program allows customers to return empty cups at a McDonald’s restaurant or drop-off location to be washed and reused for the next customer. As with soda bottle deposits, customers will pay a small deposit for the mug, which they’ll get back upon returning the cup. For the U.K. pilot, McDonald’s teamed up with New Jersey-based TerraCycle, whose Loop program sells reusable items meant for reuse. In 2019, more than two dozen McDonald’s locations in Germany offered reusable mugs with the deposit system. 

Reusable mugs have gained traction as a way to eliminate disposable coffee cups, which are hard to recycle because of the combination of plastic and paper—two items that must be recycled separately. In the United Kingdom, McDonald’s sends recycled cups to special facilities with the capability of separating the paper and plastic. 

In July 2018, the NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge, convened by Closed Loop Partners, announced that McDonald’s and Starbucks were developing a global recyclable and/or compostable cup solution. The chains worked together on developing a compostable, fully recyclable cup that will also have a lid and straw—all by 2021. 

For more, check out the NACS Sustainability Playbook and read “Sustainable-and Safe” in the June 2020 issue of NACS Magazine.