McDonald's store fined $3,846 over 'harmful' act by staff

A conversation with the Australian McDonald's franchise owner revealed the worrying truth, leading to the hefty fine.

A "harmful" act by McDonald's staff has landed one store in hot water and resulted in a fine totalling $3,846.

Members of the community grew concerned after noticing "an oily discharge coming from stormwater drains" near the store at Kingsbury in Victoria and reported it to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), prompting the agency to take immediate action.

The authority found staff had been tipping their waste cooking oil down the stormwater drain rather than putting it into the designated collection tank, which McDonald's Australia confirmed to Yahoo News is how staff should "dispose of waste oil correctly".

Ian Wright, an associate professor from the School of Science at Western Sydney University, previously told Yahoo cooking oils wreak havoc on drains and our waterways by causing blockages. It also has devastating effects on the environment and marine life, the EPA warns.

McDonald's in Kingsbury, Victoria
McDonald's in Kingsbury, Victoria was fined $3,846 by EPA Victoria. Source: Google Maps

Warning over harmful effects of cooking oil

EPA officers received a report from the community about their concerns, and after a conversation with the store owner established that a pump necessary for the operation of the collection tank had not been working for three months, and staff had been tipping waste oil down the drain instead.

EPA North Metro Regional Manager Jeremy Settle stressed the importance of not pouring oil down the drain. "Cooking oils have a harmful effect on aquatic life. It can cause the depletion of oxygen similar to petroleum oils," he said in a statement last week.

"We’ve contacted McDonalds’ head office to highlight the issue and ensure they let all their franchises know that this is not an acceptable practice."

"The only thing that should be going down the stormwater drain is rain," he added. "Businesses like McDonald's know their obligations to protect the environment."

McDonald's 'takes responsibility' for harmful act

In a statement to Yahoo News, McDonald's Australia confirmed it "is an isolated incident" and said the incident has been resolved. "The restaurant is following correct processes and procedures," McDonald's said on Tuesday. " Every McDonald’s restaurant is required to use the systems in place to dispose of waste oil correctly."

"We take our responsibility as a local business extremely seriously, and understand how important it is to do the right thing for our people, communities and environment."

Left: Staff inside Kingsbury, McDonald's store. Right: A stormwater drain on an Australian street.
The McDonald's Kingsbury store was fined for pouring cooking oil down a stormwater drain. Source: Google/Getty

Why is cooking oil problematic?

According to Sydney Water, more than 500 tonnes of greasy, matted 'fatbergs' are removed from our wastewater system every year, with an average of 13 blockages removed a day — and it's costing nearly $15 million to clean-up each year.

These blockages are made up of foreign items that should never enter the waterways and while wet wipes are an obvious concern Wright said, "things like hair and cotton buds are also a major problem, and it's the cooking fats too".

Oil solidifies as it cools, which eventually blocks drains but it also contaminates water in rivers and harms plants and animals, Clearwater Victoria states.

"A little bit of oil can do a LOT of damage. Just one litre of oil can contaminate one million litres of water," the government agency states.

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