Arcos Dorados, the largest independent McDonald's franchise in the world which operates restaurants in Latin America and the Caribbean, has demonstrated its commitment to drive a positive impact on the environment, announcing the substitution of the plastic trays used by clients in its outlets with a more sustainable version.
This measure is part of a plastics reduction programme that began in 2018. Since then, over 1,300 tonnes of single-use plastic have been removed from the restaurants. The plan is to continue on this path, minimising the use of virgin materials throughout logistics, supply chain and manufacturing to measurably offset the chain’s carbon footprint. The new trays represent the first step in the partnership between Arcos Dorados and UBQ Materials, an Israeli company that has patented a technology which converts household waste into a climate-positive, bio-based thermoplastic.
Not to be confused with standard recycling that requires highly developed sorting, UBQTM technology receives landfill-destined waste that includes everything from food leftovers to paper, cardboard and mixed plastics and can convert it all into a single composite thermoplastic material compatible with industry machinery and manufacturing standards.
The most climate-positive thermoplastic on the market
In this first phase, 7,200 serving trays made with UBQTM were introduced in 30 McDonald’s restaurants in 20 Brazilian state capitals, replacing the old plastic tray models. This initiative will gradually be extended to all McDonald’s restaurants throughout the country, with 11,000 additional trays already in production. Other than the presence of a UBQTM logo, McDonald’s patrons will see and feel no difference in the iconic serving tray, as the impact of this collaboration is in the intangible offset of carbon emissions.
By converting waste and giving it new life as a raw material in manufacturing, UBQTM prevents the pollution and harmful greenhouse gas emissions related to landfill decomposition. Each tonne of UBQTM produced saves nearly 12 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. According to Quantis, a global leader of environmental impact assessments, this metric qualifies UBQTM as the most climate-positive thermoplastic on the market. The production of the first 18,000 trays represents an estimated reduction of 3,713 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent.
“We as a company are fully committed to the environment and are doing everything possible to reduce the impact of our operation by means of our Recipe for the Future platform. The partnership with UBQ Materials is yet another step towards introducing more and more innovative solutions to improve the world around us, and we are proud to take this first step, supporting a technology that will transform the way society recycles its organic waste,” states Gabriel Serber, Director of Sustainable Development and Social Impact at Arcos Dorados.
Old tray models will be used in circular economy projects
The new trays are produced by the Brazilian company Semaza, whose plant is in Santana de Parnaíba in the Greater São Paulo region. The introduction of trays made with UBQTM will be gradually extended to the other units in the chain, while old tray models withdrawn from the restaurants will be used in circular economy projects promoted by Arcos Dorados.
“UBQTM has the potential to revolutionise the way we view waste, transforming it from a liability into a valuable resource for manufacturing. The market at large is demanding sustainable solutions and the fast-food industry is no exception. UBQTM enables manufacturers to create products that positively impact our world, without compromising on profitability – the solution is as simple as implementation,” says Albert Douer, Executive Chairman of UBQ Materials.
Commitment to sustainable development
The implementation of the trays produced with the UBQTM material complements a series of Arcos Dorados initiatives focused on the reduction and conscious use of plastic, including the substitution of the packaging of some products and the suspension of the proactive distribution of straws in its restaurants, which has already saved around 200 tonnes of disposable plastic in one year.
In addition to its regional actions, the company is committed to achieving McDonald’s global targets of a 36% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from its restaurants and corporate offices by 2030 and a 31% reduction throughout its supply chain in the same period. This means the elimination of a total of 11 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, which is equivalent to planting 3 billion trees or removing 25 million cars from the streets.