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McDonald's cuts ribbon on its first net-zero restaurant

The curb stones at McDonald’s first Net Zero Carbon restaurant in the U.K. are each made from 182 recycled plastic bottles.

The curb stones at McDonald’s first Net Zero Carbon restaurant in the U.K. are each made from 182 recycled plastic bottles.

The United Kingdom's first net zero McDonald's restaurant has opened today in Market Drayton, Shropshire, England, with the fast food giant boasting that the site has been designed to deliver net zero emissions from both construction and operation.

The restaurant — set to act as a blueprint for other McDonald's new builds from 2022 — is powered by on-site solar panels and two wind turbines, expected to produce 60,000 kilowatt-hours of power a year. The site also uses cladding and insulation made from recycled materials, including sheep's wool and washing machines that would have otherwise gone to landfill.

"At McDonald's we believe that our food needs to be served in restaurants that are sustainable for the future," said Beth Hart, vice president of supply chain and brand trust at McDonald's. "Market Drayton is a big step towards making that a reality, enabling us to test and put into practice what a net zero emissions building, both in build and use, really looks like. We've already started to roll out some of these innovations to other restaurants, but what is exciting about Market Drayton is the fact it will act as a blueprint for our future new builds."

In addition to on-site renewables and recycled cladding, the site features a Drive-Thru lane made from recycled tires, curb stones made from recycled plastic bottles and a biodiversity garden and nature trail. Customers also have access to an array of on-site EV charging points.

All furniture in the branch is made from 100 percent recyclable materials in line with McDonald's pledge to ensure all furniture in its new and refurbished restaurants will be recyclable and made from recycled or certified materials by 2023.

The restaurant chain also plans to introduce a scorecard for assessing the ethics and sustainability of suppliers.

The new opening was welcomed by Simon McWhirter, UK Green Building Council's director of communications, policy and  places, who hailed the project as a template for others to learn from. "The challenge of decarbonizing the construction industry is a complex one, but McDonald's commitment to building the first restaurant in the U.K. in line with UKGBC's net zero carbon buildings framework is a critical first step," he said. "We welcome the ambition to achieve net zero emissions for all McDonald's restaurants and offices by 2030."

However, the project received a less than warm welcome from Greenpeace, which again called on the company to step up efforts to curb emissions from its sprawling agricultural supply chain. "If meat and dairy are still the main course on McDonald's menu, then this new restaurant initiative can only be labeled as it is: McGreenwash," said Anna Jones, head of food and forests at Greenpeace UK. "Climate-critical forests across Brazil and South America are being decimated by meat and dairy production and Brits eat twice as much meat as the global average. If McDonald's genuinely wants to cut its global carbon footprint, it needs to think beyond emissions from specific U.K. sites and start to urgently shift it's entire business model to meat-free alternatives."

As part of McDonald's Plan for Change sustainability strategy unveiled earlier in the year, the company pledged to feature more plant-based options on its menu and switch to deforestation free soy in its ingredients and animal feed over the next five years. The restaurant chain also plans to introduce a scorecard for assessing the ethics and sustainability of suppliers.

McDonald's Plan for Change strategy also aims to help the business achieve net zero emissions for all of its 1,400 restaurants and offices in the U.K. and Ireland by 2030 and across its value chain by 2040.

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