What Does McDonald’s Do With Leftover Food?


With millions of customers served daily across its thousands of locations, it’s no surprise that McDonald’s serves a lot of food to its customers daily, making you wonder what happens to all the leftovers afterward.


McDonald’s cannot donate cooked food due to its food safety policies and discard edible stock/leftovers exceeding their time limit in the garbage.

Some McDonald’s locations compost, render or use anaerobic digestion to repurpose leftovers into the soil, animal feed, or biogas.

The surplus uncooked food items, on the other hand, are redistributed along their partner, FareShare.

Below, we’ll explore what McDonald’s does with leftover food and how much food the restaurant wastes.

What Does McDonald’s Do With Leftover Food?

Mcdonald's Leftover

If you’re a fast food lover, you’ve likely visited McDonald’s often. The global fast-food giant serves millions of customers daily, and it’s no surprise that they generate significant food waste in the process, making you wonder what happens to all the leftovers after the restaurant closes.


McDonald’s places significant emphasis on respecting cultural differences and strives to adapt its food menu to cater to diverse tastes and local traditions in each country where it operates its restaurants.

According to McDonald’s, they keep a close eye on the number of items sold at different times to ensure that the restaurants only order and prepare the necessary amount of food.

However, McDonald’s cannot donate cooked food to be eaten elsewhere due to its food safety policies. Therefore, everything that is not sold and has reached its time limit is counted and thrown away in the garbage.

If a tray of meat or nuggets has passed its time limit, it becomes a food safety hazard and cannot be stored or consumed.

Nevertheless, some McDonald’s locations use sustainable methods to manage food waste by sending leftovers for composting, rendering, or anaerobic digestion.

This process transforms it into nutrient-rich soil for agriculture, animal feed, or biogas for energy.

Moreover, since 2020, McDonald’s has been a proud partner of FareShare, supporting their mission of redistributing surplus uncooked food items to charities that utilize it to create meals.

This ensures that the leftover food (cooked/uncooked) is put to good use and not simply thrown away, aligning with McDonald’s commitment to reducing waste and minimizing its environmental impact.

How Much Food Is Wasted by McDonald’s?

Mcdonal's Leftover

McDonald’s and other fast food chains have strict protocols to minimize waste. The food is carefully tracked from when it is delivered to the restaurant, with expiration dates and times recorded at each stage.

Fast food managers are also trained to manage excess food through an Ideal Cost of Sales (ICOS) system, which tracks the daily waste of all products.

This system allows them to keep waste at an acceptable level, usually between 1% to 1.5% of daily sales.


McDonald’s has launched a program in the UK to recycle its employees’ uniforms. 

The program involves re-spinning some of the material into fiber to create new uniforms, while the remaining material will be shredded and repurposed as stuffing for mattresses.


In this brief guide, we’ve discussed what McDonald’s does with leftover food and how much is wasted.

We hope this article has answered your query and that you now know McDonald’s tries its best to safeguard the health concerns of its customers by simply throwing away the leftover food.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Eat McDonald’s Left Out Overnight?

The safety of consuming McDonald’s food left out overnight depends on its type and environmental conditions. For example, non-perishable items like cheese sandwiches or apples might become stale but won’t necessarily make you sick.

Dairy products might develop an unpleasant taste but are unlikely to cause illness.

However, food containing meat or eggs left out overnight in warm temperatures can become dangerous and should not be consumed.

How Do You Reheat McDonald’s?

The recommended method is to use an oven or microwave at the appropriate temperature to reheat a McDonald’s burger evenly without burning or drying it out.

Why Do McDonald’s Fries Not Decay?

McDonald’s french fries don’t decay quickly due to the hydrogenated oil they are soaked in, which contains high levels of saturated fat, increasing their shelf life and maintaining their flavor.

What’s the Unhealthiest Thing at McDonald’s?

The unhealthiest item on the McDonald’s menu is the Big Breakfast with Hotcakes, which contains 1,150 calories.

Other high-calorie items include the McCafe Shakes (830-850 calories) and the Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese (750 calories).

What Is McDonald’s Best Meal?

Some of the best McDonald’s menu items include the Big Mac, hash browns, McFlurry with OREO Cookies, French fries, Sausage McMuffin, chicken nuggets, chocolate shakes, and snack wraps.

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