It’s a rinse-and-repeat cycle: Once customers finish their coffee or tea, they return their mug to a McDonald’s restaurant or designated drop-off point. The mugs are washed and readied for the next customer.
But there’s a catch: Customers have to pay a small deposit, the exact amount to be determined, for the mug. They’ll get the money back once they return the vessel. The program isn’t mandatory: The restaurants participating in the pilot program will also continue to serve drinks in disposable cups.
That’s bad for the planet. It’s also bad for the images of big companies that want to signal to customers that they care about the environment.
In 2018, McDonald’s committed to find a more environmentally friendly cup as part of the NextGen Cup challenge, which called for ideas and funded prototypes. In the United Kingdom, McDonald’s has started to send recycled cups to special facilities that separate the materials out. And last year, about 30 McDonald’s locations in Germany started using the deposit system to offer reusable mugs.