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McDonald's turns its food contaminated waste to energy

Fast-food chain McDonalds has reduced its carbon emissions in waste management by 48 per cent in London since June and diverted its non-recyclable waste from landfill.

The store is working towards a zero waste to landfill strategy and 25 London restaurants are implementing an energy from waste programme.

A total of 90 per cent of its waste is non-recyclable food contaminated waste. The McDonalds waste is collected by waste firm Veolia Environmental Services and sent to their energy-from-waste plant South East London Combined Heat and Power, based in South London. It is then converted into energy that is channelled into the National Grid.

Speaking to MRW McDonalds senior vice president David Fairhurst said: At the moment EfW looks like a good option for the overall mix of waste that we have. This is a good way for dealing with contaminated waste. We would love to recycle more of it. But at the moment our options are limited. There are not enough options to deal with contaminated packaged waste.

Fairhurst called on local councils to invest in more recycling infrastructure to help businesses recycle contaminated packaging waste.

He said most councils had a commitment to domestic waste over industrial waste and the UK is limited in capacity to deal with food contaminated waste.

Fairhurst explained that expanding the programme would depend on whether the infrastructure challenge was met by councils.

This is the second phase of McDonalds EfW programme, the first of which started in Sheffield in 2007 and when independently reviewed by The Carbon Trust was shown to reduce carbon emissions from waste management by 54 per cent.

Veolia Environmental Services commercial, industrial and hazardous divisions managing director David Lusher said: The scheme follows on from the success of a similar initiative with us in South Yorkshire and we are planning to expand this partnership in the future.

Carbon Trust solutions director Hugh Jones said: It is becoming increasingly important for UK businesses to look at alternative options to reduce the amount of waste they send to landfill each year. We welcome the steps McDonalds has taken to reduce its emissions from waste management its initiatives running in Sheffield and London have already cut the carbon emissions from the treatment of its waste by an impressive 54 per cent and 48 per cent respectively.

McDonalds recycles 70 per cent of its cardboard from back of store and is looking at options to recycle its mixed plastic.  

Fairhurst said that during the recession the fast-food chain had seen an increase in customers but proportionately waste is not going up.

It has also finished a trial with renewable energy firm New Earth Solutions
in which all its food waste has been turned into compost for local farms. Fairhurst said that NES is currently analysing the results of the trial (see MRW story).

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