McDonald’s – still embarrassing US after all these years

We are all fans of McDonald’s.  Sure, go ahead, claim that you are not.  You can argue that it’s not a real burger.  But we don’t go to McDonald’s for real burgers.  We make those at home on the grill.  We go for the two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.

Our children go for the ketchup.  They use the french fries as their vehicle, as a means to an end, a tool to harvest the ketchup.

Go ahead, say you don’t like McDonald’s.  Forget about those greasy sausage bisquits.  The deep fried McNuggets with sweet and sour sauce.  The ease in knowing what to order.  The joy of having some change left in your pocket after filling your belly.  We like it.  We’re American.  We’re German.  We’re Turks.  We eat at McDonald’s.  The whole world eats at McDonald’s.  “Each day 22 million customers buy food in 11,000 of its outlets in 52 countries.”   http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,970470-1,00.html

Sometimes we boycott.  We diet.  We say we aren’t going to do it.  But those fries keep calling us back.  Well, as much as no one who knows me will ever believe I am saying this, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH ALREADY!

I recently ate at McDonald’s in Kavaklidere, a hipster neighborhood located in the heart of Ankara, Turkey.  It wasn’t my first time eating at a Turkish McDonald’s.  I had been before, ordering the cheeseburger, small fry, and small Coke – the kid’s meal without the toy.  This time was different.  I wanted, nay, I needed my Big Mac.  So I ordered just that.

"Menű 1" - the Big Mac Meal

I was thoroughly disgusted, embarrassed to be American at the sight of my sandwich.  It came out quickly.  It was hot alright.  It had all the right ingredients.  But there was one big difference from my American burger.  It was served in a Styrofoam container!  I could have died.

Just two weeks ago, Time Magazine reported that “(a)n estimated 30% of the food is wrapped in polystyrene packages, which means that McDonald’s customers toss out more than 45 million lbs. of so-called clamshell boxes and other polystyrene waste each year.” http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,970470-1,00.html

In 1987, twenty-three years ago, Richard M. Kessel, executive director of the New York State Consumer Protection Board, wrote to the corporation’s chairman, Fred L. Turner stating that McDonald’s could perform ”a great service to the state of New York” if it would ”discontinue Styrofoam packaging and instead expand its use of paper products made from recycled material.” http://www.nytimes.com/1987/11/11/nyregion/mcdonald-s-is-urged-to-alter-packaging.html?pagewanted=1

Three years later, “(o)n August 1, 1990, the McDonald’s Corporation and Environmental Defense Fund joined forces in a unique collaboration:  the nation’s largest fast-food chain and a leading environmental advocacy group teamed up to conserve resources and cut waste.  This fledgling partnership with a leading brand grew into one of Environmental Defense’s core programs.” http://www.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=1448

As a result, McDonald’s “(s)witched from polystyrene foam ‘clamshells’ to paper-based wraps for its sandwich packaging, providing a 70-90% reduction in sandwich packaging volume, reducing landfill space, energy used and pollutant releases over the lifecycle of the package.”  http://www.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=1448

“In 1999 McDonald’s announced that it had reduced 510 million kilowatt-hours through energy efficiency improvements in its stores and created a ‘buy recycled’ program, purchasing nearly $3 billion in products containing recycled materials.” http://www.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=1448 It’s 2010.

Times have changed for all of us.  The U.S. has an African-American president. Germany is run by a woman.  Turks are forbidden to wear head scarves in government-owned buildings. McDonald’s, however, is turning back time.

#6

I turned over my container.  There before my eyes, in the middle of a recycling triangle, was the number “6”.  The first thing I did upon returning home was to google it.  “Plastic #6: this is polystyrene, or Styrofoam, from which disposable containers and packaging are made.  You’ll also find it in disposable plates and cups. Evidence is increasingly suggesting that this type of plastic leaches potentially toxic chemicals, especially when heated. I suggest avoiding the use of #6 plastic as much as possible.  It is difficult to recycle and most recycling programs won’t accept it.” http://ecovillagegreen.com/2009/04/what-do-the-plastic-recycling-numbers-mean/

Philadelphia only recycles numbers 1 and 2.  Philadelphia is currently the sixth largest U.S. city with a population of approximately 1.6 million.  Ankara’s population is 4.7 million.  I don’t know what they recycle here in Ankara.  But I promise you, it is NOT #6 Styrofoam containers!

My message to McDonald’s:

YOU MAKE ME SICK!  STOP POLLUTING THE ENVIRONMENT!  STOP POLLUTING OTHER COUNTRIES IN WAYS THAT YOU DON’T DO IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD!  THIS IS NOT YOUR WORLD!  THIS IS OUR WORLD!  AND WE ARE TAKING IT BACK!  SO CLEAN UP YOUR ACT!

My message to Burger King:

Yes, I frequent your establishments more often than McDonald’s in Ankara because you are cheaper.  I’m the tall one who always orders the Whopper Junior meal.  But next time I visit, I’m going to order the Whopper.  So watch out!  If you serve it in Styrofoam, YOU WILL BE NEXT!

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5 thoughts on “McDonald’s – still embarrassing US after all these years

  1. Hey Sweets!!!
    I Love this Article! You can really wax poetic Terry. I thought I knew alot of my T but you always surprise me with something you can do with ease and grace. Hey, anyway, I just had McDonald’s last week on Broad and Girard. I ordered the grilled chicken snap wraps, which are very tasty and hell their a cheap on the go meal! They wrap them in a coated paper, athough its not waxed paper. Anyway, I like they way these wraps are packaged. Minimal carbon footprint on that one McDonald’s. Why don’t they do the same for all other sandwiches?

    Love Ya!

  2. T,

    You my friend are on a roll! All I can say is “Touche'”!

    McDonald’s private dumping ground..what does the Turkish Government have to say about this “happy face conglomerate” biting it’s own butt in their backyard?

    Good for you..taking that extra look…I was totally ignorant to the fact until you put this up! I think just for the heck of it I’ll ask Mr McD. themselves, I doubt that I’ll get an answer though.

    Oh, by the way…we in Sharon Hill do not eat McD’s or BK, Wendy’s etc. and have not for fifteen years. 😎

    Keep it coming we love it in Sharon Hill!

    Artie

  3. Foam is actually safer than paper. You are just perpetuating urban legends.

    Your cardboard/paper container will decay and rot giving off toxins contaminating the water table and give off methane, carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases. But that’s only if the landfill malfunctions, otherwise the paper container will never decay because that is what landfills are designed to do: prevent the leaching of toxins from decaying matter! Paper is environmentally malignant!

    The foam will sit forever and do nothing; not environmentally negligent, but environmentally benign. Foam is as dangerous as pumice rock. Polystyrene is merely a polymer of styrene, a chemical found in cinnamon, strawberries, and beef. Styrene is naturally occurring in common foods.

    Truth is that Turkey is much further ahead than the US. In the US we are still clinging to out-dated science from 1989 that has been disproved. Polystyrene containers can be reused as an efficient fuel in incinerators or recycled into other plastic products. Cardboard is not an efficient fuel, costs more to transport, and is seldom, if ever recycled.

    • Thanks Neil for the valuable feedback. However, if truth be told, polystyrene is not environmentally benign. It is swallowed by birds and animals, killing them. It is too large to be housed in landfills. And let’s face it, there are very few recycle centers for it. Oftentimes, people resort to burning it, whih can seriously affect the nervous system.

      Turkey may be ahead, if they are actually doing something with it – other than throwing it into the garbage. I will check that on my next visit, when they clear my table.

      In Germany, they also clear the table for you. Germany is way ahead of the U.S. on recycling. I will report back on that also after my next visit there.

    • I disagree that styrene is safer. First of all its made from petroleum, which the entire world is suffering from a dependency on. It does not biodegrade for hundreds of years. This means it sits around being eaten by animals that will die from it. The eventual degradation forms harmful liquids and gases. Polystyrene foam is a major component of plastic debris in the ocean, where it becomes toxic to marine life. Foamed polystyrene blows in the wind and floats on water, and is abundant in the outdoor environment. Weathering by wind, sun, rain, and wave action degrade polystyrene to known and suspected carcinogens, including styrene monomer (SM), styrene dimer (SD) and styrene trimer (ST). Burning it seems to be the best method of disposal, after recycling it.

      Cardboard, on its own, is not harmful. No more harmful than a downed tree. What could be harmful are the dyes, other than black, used to color the package. Not that they don’t make dyes that are harmless.

      I know this post is really late, but I’ve been studying the subject recently.

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