McDonald’s must stop using plastic bags for single drinks in Asia

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 September, 2017, 9:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 September, 2017, 11:09pm

Your editorial (“Time to take tougher action on plastic bags”, August 20) was a good reminder that the 50-cent levy on bags is making a difference. But as you said, much more can be done.

Sadly, one large company that is flaunting the grey zone of the bag levy is McDonald’s, which continues to hand out single plastic bags for every drink ordered, as if it is part of the product itself.

This is because the government strangely continues to allow for bags on “unpackaged drinks”, but it does not mean that leading multinational companies should be going against the spirit of the government’s goals in waste reduction via the levy. The use of plastic bags for single drinks at McDonald’s only started within the past 10 years, and is prevalent throughout many Asian countries.

Asia is the only region where McDonald’s undertakes this practice, as it would not be allowed to happen in other jurisdictions under their local environmental laws.

Not only is McDonald’s wasting money from such prolific use of bags, but they put a waste burden on all of the communities and customers they serve.

A rough estimate of McDonald’s annual single-use plastic bags within Asia, based on meals and drinks sold, suggests that the bags would circle the world over 100 times if put end to end. This defies McDonald’s corporate social responsibility pledges for reduced waste, while also tarnishing the brand of the product inside the bag, which is often Coca-Cola. This makes it guilty by association, because of the way McDonald’s “plasticises” its single drinks.

There are many solutions and opportunities for a good story to emerge here for McDonald’s, with one of the best being that it decides to save money for its shareholders while improving the communities they serve, by ending the process of giving single plastic drink bags altogether.

All other countries use paper bags or recycled cardboard, both of which are much less of a burden for the environment than plastic.

This is your chance, McDonald’s, to make a blanket statement to all Asian communities that you care and you are working in the best interests of the communities you serve, by stopping the use of your plastic drink bags, now.

Douglas Woodring, Ocean Recovery Alliance