In Lyon, McDonald’s trucks run on recycled burgers!

Posted on 14 June 2018.

McDonald's is testing trucks in the city of Lyon in France. They collect the leftovers from its restaurants for recycling to make biofuel. A solution that contributes to a more circular waste management policy.

9 metric tons of waste per fast food restaurant per year. Enough to produce 2 metric tons of biogas.

For several years, McDonald's France and its logistics provider Martin Brower have been exploring every avenue to make the company's fleet of trucks run on cleaner fuels. Since 2004, used cooking oil from McDonald’s restaurants has been collected and taken to the only processing plant currently operating in France - in Limay (Yvelines) - where Veolia makes it into biofuel. More than 7,000 metric tons of oil are recycled every year and mixed with traditional fuel to run McDonald’s vehicles.

In 2017, the environmental protection association Zero Waste challenged McDonald’s France on its waste management policy. Less than a year later, the fast food chain has taken a step further towards the circular economy with another innovative solution.

Martin Brower and Sabine Devienne - Quality Director at McDonald's France - have designed food waste vacuum trucks. It’s an original waste collection solution that makes it possible to recycle waste to make biogas. The vehicles will be tested in Lyon throughout 2018.

In January 2018, three new trucks went on the road with a twofold mission. They deliver food stocks to the twenty-four restaurants in the Lyon area and at the same time take the opportunity to collect the bio-waste.

How does it work? The vehicles are equipped with a tank and a vacuum system located under the transport crate. Before being sucked up, the waste is crushed and liquefied in large cylinders installed behind the fast-food restaurants. The trucks then transport the mixture to a logistics center where it is stored. When the volume is sufficient, the bio-waste is transported to an anaerobic digestion unit in which accelerated digestion produces methane. A biogas that is 80% cleaner than diesel.

One kilogram of waste every second

Martin Brower estimates that in a full year the process could recover 9 metric tons of waste from each of the three fast-food outlets in Lyon. That will produce 2 metric tons of biogas - enough biofuel to travel a distance of 7,500 km. However, the three test trucks are still not running on biogas as the project managers first want to make sure that the machine is running smoothly and that the process is worthwhile.

If by the end of 2018 the results of the test are conclusive, the solution could be deployed on a large scale. For example, 1,400 of the chain's restaurants - those large enough to accommodate the garbage disposal cylinders - could join the collection scheme.

Ultimately, the goal would be for all McDonald's France trucks to run on the biogas produced from their own waste. As we know that the restaurant chain generates approximately 1 kg of waste per second, it gives a good idea of the immense potential of this virtuous circular economy circle...