A lot of people have been asking us what we think about the fast food giant McDonald’s coming to town, and for us, it’s pretty clear. Its reliance on single-use throwaway packaging is not good for our environment.

a small pile of single use litter next to a larger pile of McDolad's branded takeaway packaging which littered a small suburban block in Melbourne.

While on holiday Melbourne, one of our crew categorised the litter they collected while out for a walk: the right hand side is McDonald’s branded litter, the left, all other litter.

In this year’s National Litter Audit carried out by Keep New Zealand Beautiful, McDonald’s was the number one branded litter found (5%), ahead of Cadbury and Coca Cola. It also accounted for over half the waste (56.5%) in the branded takeaway packaging category. In KNZB’s 2019 audit this figure was 63%.

Thanks to flax roots campaigns from social enterprises like Plastic Free Wānaka and Wastebusters, we have a vibrant reuse community in our district. Big business is making the switch to reusables too: Cardrona Alpine Resort, Treble Cone and Skyline are championing SUCfree, Queenstown Airport is making gains in this area and Air New Zealand is in the process of removing single-use cups from their lounges. 

If McDonald’s wants to be part of Wānaka, they need to fit in with our reuse culture, rather than bringing their litter to town.

There’ll be a chance to ask for reuse to be mandated and fines for pollution when the resource consent is publicly notified. Have your say. As we’ve seen overseas, positive action can happen with a little nudge (and helpful regulations).  

Reuse is already the norm for the fast food chain in some European countries. France’s “anti-waste” law has seen McDonald’s implement reusable systems, including a bright red, rubber container for serving french fries. 

Reusable packaging is also available in the organisation’s German outlets, thanks to national legislation requiring reuse alternatives.

Recycling is not a viable solution in our district for McDonald’s takeaway packaging as cups, cutlery and serviettes are not recyclable, and cardboard packaging is food contaminated.

Cups that hold liquids (like coffee, milkshakes, soft drinks and ice cream) are coated with plastic, foil or a chemical application to keep the liquid in – so cannot be recycled in our district. Food and grease residue also renders cardboard and paper packaging unfit for recycling so it has to go to landfill.