Technological watch

Dressed to Impress: McDonald’s Debuts New, More Sustainable Uniforms in the U.S.

Reusable McFlurry spindles, rooftop solar panels and fresh new crew uniforms. What do they all have in common? They’re part of our mission to incorporate sustainability into every part of the McDonald’s business.

While McDonald’s has rolled out new crew uniforms countless times throughout its history, these new aprons, jeans and graphic T-shirts are more than just a style upgrade — they’re made with innovative CiCLO® technology, which enables polyester fibers to biodegrade at rates comparable to natural materials like wool.

The result? A brand-new crew wardrobe that’s designed to prevent millions of pounds of plastic from entering the air, sea and soil in our communities. Bonus points: They look great and are comfortable, too.

What is CiCLO® technology?The textile, fashion and uniform industries leverage synthetic materials — namely plastic, in the form of polyester — to create durable garments that last. And McDonald’s uniforms are no exception. However, this poses an environmental challenge: Polyester microfibers that shed during manufacture, use and laundering have longevity well beyond their intended life cycle. Too tiny to be well filtered, they end up polluting environments including soil and seas, and these tiny microfibers are found to be the most prevalent form of microplastic pollution around the world.

One creative solve to this issue is CiCLO® technology, a patented textile ingredient designed to mitigate fugitive synthetic microfiber pollution. When used in the production of polyester, CiCLO® technology allows any fibers that shed to biodegrade at rates comparable to wool in wastewater sludge, soils, landfill and seawater. The ingredients are only activated under prolonged exposure to moisture and microbes, so the polyester remains durable during its useful life and won’t start biodegrading on a shelf, during wear or in the wash.

Currently, CiCLO® technology is being used in products like swim and surf wear, bedding, fiber fill, yarns and of course, fabrics like the denim used in McDonald’s new uniforms.

Bringing CiCLO® technology to the McDonald’s kitchenAs part of McDonald’s pledge to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, we aim to empower teams everywhere to innovate with exploring renewable energy, advancing the circular economy and switching to more sustainable packaging options. That includes working in partnership with Franchisees, suppliers and producers to find innovative ways to keep waste out of nature and preserve natural resources — and our uniform and packaging supplier tms took this challenge to heart. Their team worked with uniform partner Way To Be to find a more sustainable way to dress crew members in the United States every day, ultimately landing on designs made with CiCLO® technology.

How does the new material stack up? A blind field test of the new aprons made with CiCLO® technology found that crew reported no significant differences in performance, comfort or ease of care.

Since then, CiCLO® uniforms have been made available to all U.S. restaurants. Who knew looking this good could do so much good, too?

Publication date: 15/02/2024

Author: Marion Kupfer

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This project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union [LIFE17 ENV/ES/000438] Life programme

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Last update: 2022-01-31