Canadian McDonald's Is Allegedly Charging Drive-thru Customers for Paper Bags — Will the US Follow Suit?

Customers are outraged at the policy.

A collage of McDonalds and a paper bag
Updated July 18, 2024
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While McDonald's in Canada may have menu items like the Skor McFlurry and McShaker Fries, there is one thing it doesn't have: free paper bags.  While fast-food restaurants here haven't mentioned implementing the extra charge, one McDonald's customer claims even drive-through paper bags are being eliminated.

Although this change has not officially taken place in the US, 12 states across America banned single-use plastic bags in January 2024. States like Oregon and California additionally charge customers for paper bags at the register. Environmentalists claim that despite the extra grocery store expense, they are already seeing positive impacts on the environment. 

Apparently, in some Canadian locations, there is a 15-cent charge for a takeout bag, and customers can expect to be handed their items individually if they don't purchase one.

Here's what we know so far.

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One customer recalled their bagless drive-thru experience

Colin Temple/Adobe mcdonalds restaurant

One woman recently discovered the bag charge policy and expressed her anger on TikTok. Amber, also known as @amber.in.wonderland, explained what happened when she ordered from the drive-thru of a McDonald's in Alberta.

“I went through the drive-thru, and they were like, ‘Would you like a bag for that?’ And I said no because I was confused by it,” Amber recalled in the TikTok. She goes on to explain that customers who refused a bag would be delivered their orders in a shocking way.

 “They hand you this clear, plastic container with all your food in it into the car," she said. "Then you have to sit there, and they’re staring at you while you empty your fries, burger, and condiments out of it, trying to find a spot for them in your car while you’re trying to hurry up because there’s someone behind you waiting.” (You're expected to return the plastic container to the employee after emptying your items.)



People were outraged on social media

Refrina/Adobe mcdonalds restaurant building

On the same woman's TikTok, many people commented that they were not on board with the policy.

One person raised the question of how hygienic their containers were. "Are they disinfecting the containers every time they are passed back and forth?" they wrote.

Someone else was skeptical of the chain's price for their bags. "My concern is that they’re still making a gouging profit on the bags," they added. "When they buy 1 billion bags a year, I’m sure the price point is not 15 cents."

Another person who said they used to work at McDonald's advised everyone this: "Please everyone, take your time with this. They care a lot about drive-thru wait times," implying that the policy would go away if it meant that customers would have to wait longer in the drive-thru line. 

The policy is mandated by certain cities

Chatchai/Adobe McDonald's in Thailand

So far, McDonald's is only doing this in cities that require eco-friendly packaging laws. In Edmonton, Canada, for example, all food establishments, not just McDonald's, must introduce fees on bags to reduce waste. Other Canadian cities with similar regulations include Vancouver and Surrey, so all McDonald's locations within these regions would charge for bags.

From what we know, there have yet to be any reports of McDonald's locations doing this in the U.S., so Americans don't have to worry just yet.

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Bottom line

Heorshe/Adobe Golden Arches sign at McDonald's restaurant

So far, the bag-charge policy has affected only a few Canadian regions. Although it hasn't hit the States yet, something similar could happen in the future. If it does, we only hope McDonald's can compromise with angry customers. Either way, this could be your sign to stock up on some reusable bags. 

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Jennifer Adams

Jennifer Adams is a writer for FinanceBuzz. Her goal is to help consumers make smart shopping decisions, and she loves discovering products from emerging brands.