Case Study: McDonalds

Published: 2021/11/05
Number of words: 804

1.0 Introduction

According to (Reuters, 2007) McDonald’s have 1200 outlets in Britain, whereas 165 outlets of McDonald in London alone produces 618,000 litres of used cooking oil each year (LRS, 2013), and the volume is growing every day not only in the United Kingdom but in the whole world. This case study briefly evaluates the initiative by McDonald’s to convert used-cooking oil into biodiesel.

2.0 Target of the McDonald’s

In 2007, McDonald’s announces a green initiative to convert the used cooking oil from its 900 outlets out of 1200 outlets in the UK to power its 155 delivery trucks. Although the final target of the food giant is ambitious, and it is expected to save 1,675 tons of carbon annually once all the outlets start to convert the used cooking oil to biodiesel, it seems negligible as the UK only have 1200 McDonald’s outlet, although its long-term ripples would be huge (ICSI, 2007).

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Initially, the company converted 45 of its delivery trucks to operate on biodiesel and gradually converted all its fleet to work on the biodiesel with minor modifications in the engine. The biodiesel is made from 15% rapeseed oil and 85% cooking oil, complying with the EN14214 European biodiesel specification.

3.0 Method to convert used-cooking oil to biodiesel

McDonald used the process called esterification to convert the used oil to biodiesel; figure 1 shows a schematic representation of esterification, whereas figure 2 below shows a schematic representation of the process of making biodiesel in McDonald’s.

Used oil is collected from outlets around the UK by the delivery/pickup trucks is collected in large tanks at the Liverpool processing facility. The oil is allowed to settle in tanks. Heavier particles sink to the bottom, whereas lighter and smaller particles float to the top. The oil is then slowly heated and twirled to allow the removal of solids and moisture present. At this specific moment, the process of esterification takes place, which produces biodiesel. Esterification is followed by distillation and filtration to produce biodiesel ready to use (McDonald’s, 2013).

Figure 1: Process of Esterification (Enerfish, 2009)

Figure 2: Biodiesel from used cooking oil in McDonald’s (McDonald’s, 2013)

Esterification is the chemical reaction process to produce biodiesel. Plant fats, animal fats, and oil are usually made out of triglycerides, and they are with glycerol, trihydric alcohol, and free from fatty acids. The alcohol is transferred to the base during the process of transesterification to make it a stronger nucleophile. Usually, for this process, methanol or ethanol is used. Usually, this reaction takes much time to convert the oil to biodiesel. Therefore, heat or acid is used to expedite the reaction process. McDonald’s uses heat and mixing techniques to expedite the reaction.

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4.0 Results of McDonald’s initiative

In the UK, McDonald’s target to run its 155-delivery truck has been accomplished. 100% of McDonald’s trucks in the UK are run on biodiesel. At the same time, 42% of the global delivery fleet of McDonald’s is being run on homemade biodiesel. From 2007 till today, almost all McDonalds outlets throughout the UK and the globe are recycling their used cooking oil. According to (McDonald’s 2013), in 2013, approximately 3.7 million litres of used cooking oil was collected and converted into 3.1 million litres of biodiesel. McDonald’s does not have any targets to increase its biodiesel consumption, as due to advance frying techniques has reduced the consumption of frying oil, which resulted in reduced used cooking oil from their restaurants over the last few years (McDonald’s, 2013).

References (2009). Biodiesel esterification. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Feb. 2018]. (2009). Fish oil to biodiesel – Biodiesel transesterification – Biodiesel fossil fuel. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Feb. 2018]. (2018). McDonald’s to power trucks with cooking oil. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Feb. 2018]. (2018). McDonald’s to run fleet on homemade biodiesel. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Feb. 2018].

UK (2018). McDonald’s to recycle cooking oil for fuel. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Feb. 2018].

What makes McDonald’s. (2007). How does biodiesel power your delivery trucks? [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Feb. 2018].

What makes McDonald’s. (2013). Veggie lorries on the road. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Feb. 2018].

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