McDonald’s And The Clam Shell

Speaking of clams without shells, it was in the late 1980’s that McDonald’s was bullied by burgeoning environmental groups (who were concerned about “how many trees it takes to make paper” ) into switching from paper packaging to Styrofoam containers. These containers are what McDonald’s soon came to call (apparently without irony) “clam shells.”

Clam shells were not McDonald’s first choice. But Styrofoam is an exceptionally good insulator and so McDonald’s acquiesced to this environmental strong-arming.

Shortly thereafter, near the end of the 1980’s, environmentalists came along again and attacked McDonald’s use of polystyrene (the technical name for Styrofoam), because in order to make polystyrene, chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) are required, which chlorofluorocarbons purportedly poke holes in the ozone. So out of the goodness of their hearts, the suppliers of McDonald’s clam shell stopped using CFC’s in their manufacturing process.

This wasn’t good enough, however. The clam shell came under fire again, this time for other things:

It doesn’t “biodegrade” in landfills, environmental groups said — though, in fact, next to nothing, no matter how “organic,” biodegrades in landfills, because biodegrading requires oxygen, which compressed trash does not have.

Another reason they gave: plastic and polystyrene “take up a great deal of space.” (Untrue.)

Yet throughout this whole fiasco, McDonald’s was completely compliant.

They even embarked upon the suggested polystyrene recycling program.

Pressed, however, by the Environmental Defense Fund, McDonald’s, in the autumn of 1990, abandoned the clam shell altogether and supplanted it with a so-called quilt-wrap, which is paper coated in a thin layer of plastic.

So it was back to paper after all, back where it began.

McDonald’s received public acclaim for this change (this was before it had become quite so vogue to anathematize corporations) and the story even made the cover of The New York Times (November 2, 1990).

It soon transpired, as you would perhaps suspect, that, according to environmentalists, the quilt-wrap was “too difficult to recycle,” whereas polystyrene was not. Also, polystyrene accounted for only four percent of all McDonald’s solid waste in the past, which was much less than with the quilt-wrap.

So McDonald’s was yet again asked to switch.

And so it goes….

You may read all about this ongoing saga in Doctor William Rathje’s excellent book Rubbish! The Archeology of Garbage, — a must see for anyone wanting to understand the true nature of rubbish, as opposed to the trash-heaps of environmental propaganda that surrounds the subject. And you may listen to an excerpt of Dr. Rathje’s book here.


  • Mad Chad

    March 11, 2010

    Or, you can just make MacDonalds a non-issue by not eating the crap they serve. Get your paper and ‘clamshells’ elsewhere!

  • Pat Renden

    March 11, 2010

    Let’s not leave out the fact that McDonald’s has been attacked for the state of America’s waistlines. What I vehemently object to is comparisons of McDonald’s to American tobacco

    When will people take responsibility for their own lives?

  • Nick

    March 11, 2010


    Why do you object to the comparisons between McDonald’s and tobacco? Just wondering.

    By the way, I grew up in the hometown of Krispy Kreme and RJR. By all rights, I should have died long ago from either lung cancer or from simply imploding under my own weight like a neutron star.

  • Cliff

    March 11, 2010

    Mcdonalds should go with veggy burgers instead of beef. It weighs less and so use of petro would be less in shipping. Besides that feeding corn to cows will disrupt ethanol production, a much needed pile of shit that has obtained the ability to flip us all off.

    Are the kids meal toys made in China ? And then placed next to my boys burger ? Are the burgers made in China ?

    OH GOD !

  • Kyle

    March 12, 2010

    Pat Renden —

    It is, as Ray says, “the paternalistic mindset” run amok. The same principle was at work when the lady successfully sued McDonald’s because she scorched her clamshell (lol) and her anus with scalding McDonald’s coffee, which she situated between her thighs while driving.

  • Renchy

    March 12, 2010


    Why is it that every author you cite or highlight comes from the who’s who of has-beens? Rose Wilder is over. No one uses her anymore. Get it through your thin, bird-like skull. When I was in college in Illinois they made us memorize her famous quote. I felt that it was unjust that I had to remember such a trite saying. But shame on you in your so called interview for attacking environmentalism. (I’m trying real hard not to call you a son-of-a-bitch today.)

    Sure, there are negative things about environmentalism. But there are also many, many historians (myself included) who consider environmentalism one of the most important movements of our century, just as many of us regard FDR one of the great presidents of all-time. You may hate him b/c he was a cripple, but we Jews love the way he stood up to the Krauts, and stuck up for the niggers and showed the rest of the world what America could do with a little collective ambition.

    Obviously you have discovered a vein of old classic liberal writing which you feel obligated to pummel the rest of with on a quotidian basis. I Pencil, give me a fucking break.

    And now you come out in defense of McDonalds.

    Kyle, tell me, dear sir, what was the name of the woman with the burnt vagina? You can’t tell me. Just as your boy Ronald Reagan (not a Libertarian because he had kids, even if he abused them) was never able to produce the “welfare queens” who drove their “pink Cadillacs” … your just talking out your ass, you insolent butt-hole.

    There never was a woman who sued McDonalds for a burnt vagina.

  • Nick

    March 12, 2010

    “Kyle, tell me, dear sir, what was the name of the woman with the burnt vagina? You can’t tell me. your just talking out your ass, you insolent butt-hole. There never was a woman who sued McDonalds for a burnt vagina.”

    Don’t be hatin’ on Stella’s boiled coochie!'s_Restaurants

    Pat, that case had merit.

  • Jim Tripp

    March 12, 2010

    loved this, but you left out

    “beef was deemed an inordinate health risk to the public, and Mcdonalds acceded to a demand for them to use pressed shit in place of hamburger patties.”

    i really enjoyed this. I work in a toxic industry and fully half of every dollar goes to environmental issue. The single highest cost the company I work for incurs.

  • Hamburgler

    March 12, 2010

    I will say but two things on this:

    First off, I love McDonalds. I eat it regularly. Why? Because it works. It’s good. It’s consistent. I can go anywhere in the world and enjoy McDonalds… And I have! I made it a point to eat McDonalds just once in in every country I visited, and from England to Portugal to the UAE, McDonalds was McDonalds. Some day I’d like to make it to Japan, and I will eat McDonalds there too, just because.

    It is because of this worldly success that the left hates McDonalds. The socialists hate success. They always have. It means that capitalism works. People around the world love McDonalds, and so McDonalds thrives around the world. It is capitalism in it’s purist and most beautiful form. I may have had a different opinion had my Quarter Pounder with Cheese been different or less satisfying in Portugal, but it wasn’t. That, my friends, is success at its finest.

    Secondly, going back to personal accountability, I would like to personally go out and meet the morons face-to-face who try to sue McDonalds or blame them for their weight problems. I’d like to meet them and then pimp slap them. Where has personal accountability gone? I, for one, went over a year eating McDonalds 3 times a day 3 times a week and 2 times a day twice a week. I was in the Navy and going to school full time, and it was the only restaurant we had on base (we were a small base). So on school days I had breakfast lunch and dinner (we worked 6 to 4 and I had school from 5 to 10) and the other days it was just breakfast and lunch. I probably did this for about a year and a half or so… But, I didn’t die. I didn’t get fat. I had 3 physical readiness tests and 1 medical physical during that time, and my health was great… But how?? Personal accountability. I may have eaten all that McDonalds, but I also worked out 5 days a week and kept myself in good shape. I didn’t always gorge myself on supersize fries. I didn’t always go for the Coke. But when it came down to it, I ate a lot of beef, bread, eggs and cheese… And really, is that such a bad thing? Sure, you can let yourself go and then they become bad things, but otherwise those things are building blocks! They are not bad for you so long as you are living an otherwise healthy life.

    Just some food for thought.

  • WastedEnergy

    March 15, 2010

    I agree that some of the demands made by environmentalists have been absurd. McDonald’s has actually made some decent strides in improving the sustainability of their business, like agreeing not to purchase beef raised on deforested Amazon land and product stewardship measures like sending all the waste from their London stores to incinerators rather than landfills. But at the same time, it is important to recognize that they still have a long way to go, and do engage in a lot of manipulative marketing and serve a lot of really, really unhealthy food.

    It’s important to keep an eye on both the supercorporations and the “green” lobbyists, as both are often prone to overzealousness in pursuit of either “record profit” or “zero waste.”

  • Will

    February 26, 2012

    Wow, that’s a whole lot of retarded.

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