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How McDonalds is buying into circular design

Through a radical French pilot scheme, the fast-food giant aims to test whether sustainable interiors can be adaptable and scalable.

29/02/2024

2 min read

McDonalds Carbone

Ethical, responsible production might not immediately spring to mind when discussing giant corporations like McDonald’s, and not without reason – the scale and pace at which they produce waste and consume natural resources tends to eclipse most other organisations. However, when the push for sustainability starts to reach even those on the highest rungs of the economic ladder (whether that be in response to public pressure, or a genuine shift in ethos), it’s hard not to see this as a step forward in creating a more environmentally conscious market.

Following the announcement of its 2050 net zero target, the global fast-food chain has released a number of green initiatives, sometimes met with mixed responses from the public and international media outlets. One such initiative was a partnership with circular economy specialists Reconomy, in which they refurbished a Warrington restaurant and donated the old furniture to YMCA Together. Next on the agenda are two pilot restaurants in the French cities of Carbonne and La Guerche de Bretagne, based entirely around circular furniture and décor. These experimental projects aim to be a test case in disassembly and circularity, exploring whether this reuse-not-replace approach has the potential to be adapted and scaled for large commercial markets.

In collaboration with Belgian design agency WeWantMore and global sustainability consultants Anthesis, a measurement index was created to track the circularity of McDonalds’ global restaurant interiors. Bringing their score from 14 to 53 percent, the pilot restaurants are furnished with pieces that can easily be taken apart: instead of glue, the furniture is held together using mechanical fixings, allowing local teams to break the fittings down and separate them into raw material type more easily. As well as removing the need for new metal and wood components treated with laminates or glues (which aren’t suitable for reuse), this approach should, in theory, enable easier and more accessible recycling processes for staff.

In the two pilot restaurants, other sustainable features include tabletops, low stools and chairs made with 80–100% recycled plastic, and the removal of powder coating from all décor elements to enable greater reuse of steel components in the future. Depending on the success of the two French test cases, McDonald’s claims that the same model could be scaled to more of their international franchise restaurants – begging the question, could we see more of these circular initiatives throughout commercial hospitality, in response to an increasingly eco-minded customer base?

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