France: fries and croquettes now served in reusable dishes at McDonald's

Since January 1, reusable containers have been mandatory in fast food restaurants in France.

France: fries and croquettes now served in reusable dishes at McDonald's

Since January 1, reusable containers have been mandatory in fast food restaurants in France.

In December, some McDonald's restaurants were testing prototypes, like bright red plastic chip cones, similar to the cardboard ones consumers have always known.

“I was not aware, but I find it good that it is compulsory”, approves Tom Fresneau, 16, who came to lunch with his friend Ilane.

“Afterwards, it costs more than paper and cardboard, I understand that this is a problem for small fast food restaurants which risk increasing their prices”, he remarks.

Since January 1, fast food restaurants must use reusable tableware for meals and drinks served at the table, whether cups, lids, plates, containers or cutlery, in application of the law relating to the fight against waste and the circular economy (Agec) voted in 2020.

Fast food chains serve 6 billion meals per year in 30,000 points of sale in France, which generates 180,000 tonnes of waste each year.

For large chains like McDonald's, Quick, KFC or Domino's Pizza, which use disposable packaging and tableware in profusion, it is a question of changing the model.

“It is an emblematic measure. If it is applied well tomorrow, it will make a very concrete difference for people, it is undeniably going in the right direction, ”said Moira Tourneur, of the NGO Zero Waste France.

Located on a busy shopping street, the McDonald's in Levallois-Perret (Hauts-de-Seine) had to recruit "for daytime diving, hostesses at reception to accompany customers and explain sorting to them because initially time, it was very complicated, and also at the level of the counter and the service at the table”, explains to AFP Maria Varela, its director.

“Everything that used to be cardboard is now reusable plastic. It was necessary to review the procedures in the kitchen, separate the orders on the spot from those to take away, provide storage space …”, she explains.

Renovation work on the establishment provided an opportunity to adapt the cramped kitchen to this new requirement.

Cups “often taken away”

This pilot establishment, which employs 70 people and makes 80% of its sales in delivery or take-out - compared to 50% on average for the 1,527 McDonald's in France - is one of those which, over the past year, has tested various reusable containers in glass or porcelain; before the chain opted for titan plastic, reputed to be very resistant.

As of January 1, 90% of the chain's restaurants should be ready, according to a spokesperson for McDonald's France.

Customers still sometimes throw the containers in the trash... or take them away, especially young people, who are used to finishing their drink outside the establishment.

At Subway, respecting an obligation which "concerns 95% of cups", according to a spokesperson, also required "several months of experimentation and tests", an "awareness campaign" with franchisees and indoor displays intended for customers.

Despite the “immediate environmental gain” that this measure constitutes, its application is “threatened”, estimated five NGOs, in a column published by Le Journal du Dimanche in early December.

Because while some players "show goodwill", others "were at great risk of missing the January 1 deadline", worried Surfrider, Zero Waste France, No Plastic in my Sea, Collectif EC2027 and Consigne Network, which call on consumers to "punish signs that do not respect the law" and the government to monitor the application of the law.

As for the European packaging industry (EPPA), it believes that reusable tableware has “ultimately a worse environmental balance than that of paper packaging”. It “must be washed and dried”, with a lot of “energy, water and detergents”, underlined its president Éric Le Lay in a recent column.


Since its entry into force, McDonald's restaurants have seen their recyclable containers disappear, reports the daily Le Parisien on Wednesday.

Many customers leave with plastic glasses, boxes of croquettes or French fries containers.

“We are seeing losses. But the rates are not disproportionate like in classic restaurants, ”says the founder of Pyxo, Benjamin Peri, who offers a fleet of reusable containers to McDonalds.

"It's very difficult to say what is willful theft, clumsiness and forgetfulness."

A communication campaign is still planned by the fast food chain to counter the phenomenon.