Restaurant Brands International: Report on Sustainable Packaging Policies

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WHEREAS:  plastic pollution is a global environmental crisis and Restaurant Brands International has not developed comprehensive packaging sustainability policies to deal with low recycling rates of its packaging and the high volume of plastic waste that ends up in oceans.

As our brands Burger King and Tim Hortons have helped to foster a wasteful “to go” disposable packaging culture, plastic pollution of land and water has become an urgent environmental issue. The ocean contains an estimated 150 million tons of plastic, with about 8 million tons added annually, equivalent to a garbage truck load every minute. Experts predict there will be more plastic than fish by weight in oceans by 2050. In the marine environment, plastic straws, cups, and lids break down into small indigestible particles that birds and marine animals mistake for food, resulting in illness and death. Packaging that degrades in waterways can also transfer hazardous chemicals to animals and potentially to humans.

Fast food plastic straws, cups, and lids are prevalent in street and marine litter. They are among the top 10 items found in beach cleanups. 550 million plastic straws are used by Americans and Canadians daily, which are not recycled and can harm marine mammals and fish. Tim Hortons was cited as the second largest plastic polluter in Canada in an October 2018 Greenpeace Canada beach cleanup brand audit.

The company does not disclose the extent to which paper and plastic cups are collected and recycled at its brands. Most of the billions of cups our company uses every year end up in landfills. Further, a Canadian media investigation found that significant numbers of Tim Hortons cups collected to be recycled still ended up in the trash.  Competitor Starbucks has a specific goal to promote reusable coffee containers, to recycle all plastic and paper cups left in its stores, and has set a deadline for phase out of plastic straws. It also uses 10% recycled paper cup fiber. Competitor McDonald’s has committed to recycle packaging in all locations globally by 2025. Our brands lack any of these commitments.

Burger King has locations in China, Indonesia, and the Philippines, countries with the highest levels of plastics deposition into waterways. The company is vulnerable to environmental impacts of business expansion in markets lacking waste management capacity.

BE IT RESOLVED:  Shareholders request the company issue a report to shareholders, to be prepared at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, to develop environmental leadership commitments on plastic pollution and recycling through a comprehensive policy on sustainable packaging. 

SUPPORTING STATEMENT:Proponent believes the company should evaluate and report on policies and metrics relative to the company’s performance, such as: recycled content and container recovery goals and metrics, ensuring that cups collected are actually recycled, eliminating non-recyclables such as plastic straws and polystyrene foam, and plans to recycle or compost packaging waste at the company’s restaurants. We believe the requested report is in the best interest of the company and its shareholders.

Resolution Details

Company:  Restaurant Brands International

Lead Filers:
As You Sow

Year: 2019

Filing Date: 
December 2018

Initiative(s): Consumer Packaging

Status: 22.15%

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