In a move to greatly expand the U.S. market for recycled products, McDonald's Corp. on Tuesday pledged to purchase up to $100 million worth of recycled materials a year for use in building and remodeling its U.S. restaurants.
The new "McRecycle USA" program is designed to create markets for hundreds of products made from recycled material ranging from wallboard to trash cans and table tops. Manufacturers and distributors of recycled products are encouraged to offer their wares to McDonald's by calling a new toll-free number or by contacting an information center set to open in the fall at the company's Oak Brook, Ill., headquarters.
The company plans to use the recycled materials in the 400 or so restaurants built each year and in the 1,000 that undergo remodeling.
"Recycling is one of the most important environmental steps America can take," said Ed Rensi, president of McDonald's USA. "But there is an urgent need to expand the market for recycled materials so that individuals, communities and businesses can sustain--and even increase--their recycling efforts."
The American public's reawakened interest in environmental issues has sparked corporate America to respond in dramatic ways. Last week, three major tuna canners said they would stop buying tuna caught with nets that also trap and kill dolphins. Dozens of major companies are also linking their advertising campaigns to the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, to be celebrated on April 22.
McDonald's is already one of the largest users of recycled paper products in the fast-food business, according to Shelby Yastrow, McDonald's senior vice president of environmental affairs.
The company is also using a soft, rubber playground covering made from recycled rubber tires and is recycling some of the polystyrene containers used to hold hamburgers and other foods. Yastrow said the lightweight containers can be recycled into trays and trash cans, among other things.
"I would pray someday that we can build a restaurant out of 100% recycled materials," said Yastrow, who also serves as the company's general counsel. He said he expects the new recycling program to be a success because "the top guys are 100% behind me."
McDonald's, which serves about 22 million customers a day at its 11,500 restaurants worldwide, currently spends about $60 million a year on recycled paper products. About 250 restaurants are involved in a polystyrene recycling program that is scheduled to be expanded to about 2,000 restaurants in the next few years, Yastrow said. He said anyone who produces recycled materials should contact the company at 1-800-453-1000. They will be sent information about the program and learn how to qualify to sell their products to McDonald's.
Meanwhile, the organizers of Earth Day 1990 said they are watching the efforts by major corporations to solve environmental problems with interest.
"If companies are going to make real improvements, that's great," said Denis Hayes, a San Francisco attorney who is credited with founding Earth Day in 1970. "If it is just for public relations, then I condemn it."
Kentucky Fried Chicken, which has about 5,000 U.S. restaurants, has a pilot polystyrene recycling program at five restaurants in Massachusetts, spokesman Dick Detwiler said. He said the company hopes to expand its recycling efforts, which now include a paper and aluminum recycling program at its Louisville, Ky., headquarters,
Except for its hot drink cups, which are made out of polystyrene, Burger King uses paper products, according to corporate spokeswoman Cori Zywotow. She said the company is looking into several pilot recycling programs but currently does not use recycled paper products in its restaurants.