The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Stefanie Spear,

41% of McDonald's Shareholders Support New Action on Reducing Plastics Packaging Pollution

Shareholders of McDonald's Corporation representing more than $51 billion in market value supported


Shareholders of McDonald's Corporation representing more than $51 billion in market value supported a resolution filed by As You Sow requesting the company develop a list of actions it could take to reduce plastic pollution. More than 206 million shares, 41.9% of ownership, supported the proposal.

"This high vote sends the message that McDonald's must do much more in order to address the plastic pollution crisis," said Kelly McBee, waste program coordinator at As You Sow. "In response to its shareholders, we expect the company to set new goals to reduce plastic pollution, such as a commitment to use less plastic overall."

As a cultivator of wasteful "to go" packaging culture, McDonald's is particularly at risk of regulatory, financial, and reputational impacts from its use of plastic packaging. The seminal "Breaking the Plastic Wave" report reveals that corporations face an annual financial risk of approximately $100 billion should governments require them to cover the waste management costs of the packaging they produce, a policy that is increasingly being enacted around the globe.

McDonald's is notably absent from the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, the largest pre-competitive corporate movement to address plastic pollution. Hundreds of participating companies have adopted goals to transition to package-free and refillable packaging formats and reduce overall single-use plastic packaging by 2025.

McDonald's lags its corporate peers, receiving a "D-" grade in As You Sow's Corporate Plastic Pollution Scorecard ranking 50 of the largest fast-moving consumer goods companies on actions to prevent plastic packaging pollution.

At the heart of the plastic pollution problem are single-use plastics like cold beverage cups, condiment packets, and utensils used by McDonald's, which make up the largest component of ocean-bound plastic pollution. "Breaking the Plastic Wave" report calls on corporations to cut plastic use by one-third through elimination, reuse, refill, and new delivery systems. McDonald's has no goal to reduce its overall use of plastic packaging.

Global Commitment signatory and competitor Starbucks is launching a new "Borrow A Cup" program where customers can borrow a Starbucks-provided reusable mug and return it at a later date for sanitization and refill. By 2023, Starbucks will also facilitate the use of customer personal cups for all in-store, drive-through, and mobile purchases. McDonald's has no goal to explore reusable packaging beyond the pilot stage.

An estimated 11 million metric tons of plastics leak into oceans annually and this figure is expected to grow to 24 million metric tons by 2040 unless a range of drastic remedial actions are taken. Plastic particles are permeating our air, food, and water. Ocean plastic pollution causes fatalities in more than 800 marine species from ingestion, entanglement, suffocation, or drowning. The scientific community has warned that plastic pollution may be nearing an irreversible tipping point. The plastic lifecycle imposes costs on the environment, climate, and human health that are at least 10 times higher than the market price of plastics.

As You Sow is the nation's non-profit leader in shareholder advocacy. Founded in 1992, we harness shareholder power to create lasting change that benefits people, planet, and profit. Our mission is to promote environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies.