McDonald's does a first in India, converts used cooking oil into biodiesel

Burger chain McDonald’s has become the first quick service restaurant player in the country to use biodiesel, produced from used cooking oil, to power its trucks as companies increasingly take up sustainability initiatives aggressively. 

On Monday, Hardcastle Restaurants, a McDonald’s franchisee in west and south India, said it is converting 4.5 lakh litres of used cooking oil annually (or over 35,000 litres per month) into biodiesel. This is being used to power 20-25 trucks that made trips to around 275 restaurants carrying supplies from its distribution centre, said Vikram Ogale, director, national supply chain and quality assurance, McDonald’s India (west and south).

“We began the initiative a year ago on a pilot basis in Mumbai and have since scaled up the operation. We now cover 50 per cent of our stores and the plan is to reach all 275 restaurants in west and south India,” he said. 

Covering 275 restaurants would mean that Hardcastle would have to ramp up biodiesel production by 67 per cent to 7.5 lakh litres per annum so that an additional 20-25 trucks could be pressed into service. The long-term plan is to cover nearly 500 stores in four years in the two markets (west and south), implying that biodiesel production would have to be increased even more. 

Ogale said his firm was working towards this objective in partnership with local player Unicon Biofuels, which converts used cooking oil into biodiesel. “We have been working with them (Unicon) for the last one year and are happy with the outcome,” Ogale says. He declined specifying the investment going into converting used cooking oil into biofuels, adding the initiative could cover other legs of distribution (such as targeting trucks of ingredient suppliers) 
in the future. 

At a broader level, McDonald's initiative could goad other restaurant majors to follow suit, as the need to protect the environment grows. 

Restaurant chains have already stepped up their efforts to reduce plastic consumption in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra, following a ban on plastic in the state. They have done so by introducing paper containers, straws and plates, glass bottles and even steel lunch boxes. 

McDonald's in recent years has been pushing the peddle on a number of sustainable initiatives in India, including sourcing fresh food straight from farms as well as reducing sodium, oil and fats in its menu. 

The effort on biofuels comes as McDonald’s globally commits to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 36 per cent across restaurants by 2030, as well as lowering emission intensity per metric tonne of food and packaging by 31 per cent. 

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