Today, the McLibel trial became the longest ever trial in British history. Between 9:30am and 10:30, the defendants were available for media interviews and photographs outside the Royal Courts of Justice. A 5ft model milestone bearing the words '292 Days, Longest Ever Trial, McWorld Under The Grill.' was placed at the entrance to the courts.
JUDGE PUTS PRESSURE ON THE DEFENDANTS
Justice Bell began the morning's proceedings by questioning the defendants about their planned timetable for the rest of their closing speeches. He seemed determined to end the trial - the final speeches and legal submissions - as soon as possible, basically by the end of the year. Yesterday, Richard Rampton QC had said that he hadn't yet completed his preparations for the Plaintiff's closing speech, but 'hoped' to have it in writing by November 22nd. Today the unrepresented defendants pointed out that they had sought an adjournment on October 7th in order to have more time to prepare, but had been told by the Judge that they had had plenty of time during the summer break to get ready. Ms Steel pointed out that McDonald's legal team, with all their resources and experience, were still not ready themselves. (Indeed, their 3 trained lawyers in court could all be seen working hard on their preparations, using their added advantage of being able to hear all the defendants' points first and crafting a response). However, rather than order McDonald's to speed things up by ordering them to complete their Closing Speech preparations forthwith and hand a copy to the defendants, he instead indicated he would be putting greater pressure on the defendants by limiting the time available for Defence submissions!
PACKAGING AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Mr Morris started on the subject of Recycling and Waste. He said that the defendants considered that the meaning of this part of the leaflet was that the huge scale and nature of McDonald's business inevitably involves them purchasing many tons of paper most of which is not recycled and which contributes to the destruction of trees and forests. He said that evidence in the trial had shown that there was over half a million tonnes of waste produced by company stores worldwide every year.
Mr Morris added, ".. for many years McDonald's used materials for food packaging which were harmful to the environment and continues to use packaging which is harmful to the environment. That in a nutshell is what we set out to demonstrate in the case and which we think we have demonstrated overwhelmingly both from our witnesses and from McDonald's own witnesses."
He concluded, "..the question we have to ask is: Does the production of mountains of packaging cause damage to the environment? And the answer is plainly yes. And McDonald's will accept that fact."
THE ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS OF McDONALD'S PACKAGING
Mr Morris referred to the evidence of Anne Link, their expert witness who is the Science Coordinator of the Women's Environmental Network, currently sponsoring a waste minimisation bill in the UK Parliament. She had talked about the negative effects caused by McDonald's packaging, particularly concerns about dangerous chemicals used in production processes, and also about the damage caused by the disposal of discarded materials.
She had criticised the sheer volume of company packaging, much of it unnecessary. She had been also critical of the fact that McDonald's use disposable items instead of re-useable and do not even recycle any customer waste. It had been her view that obtaining a 'zero waste' society was an internationally recognised aim. She had referred to McDonald's official documents and conduded that the company is awaiting until forced to change by increasing levels of environmental awareness.
Mr Morris then refered to Edward Oakley senior vice president for McDonald's in charge of purchasing for northern Europe since 1984. Mr Oakley had claimed that McDonald's was conscious of environmental issues and referred to the company's 'environmental task force' that was set up in the early '90s, and a claimed 'corporate environmental policy'. He had also stated that he did not know when the policy was published, but had seen it 'on a wall' at the head office. He had then said that the policy had not had any direct effect on the purchasing department, but 'it certainly did on the communications department' i.e. the PR department. Mr Morris claimed that coming from their senior vice president in charge of McDonald's purchasing in Northern Europe it was an admission that their policies are for propaganda purposes rather than for any substantial impact on the way they carry out their business. The witness of course had denied that.
LACK OF RECYCLING
Mr Morris spoke of McDonald's complete failure to carry out any post-customer recycling, despite the admission in the witness box of Robert Beavers, a member of McDonald's US Board of Directors, that organising recycling 'does not cause difficulty'. Mr Morris said that it had been admitted that in America, only 10 stores out of 10 thousand were operating post-customer recycling. Mr Morris continued by talking about a so-called recycling 'pilot scheme' in the UK that had been operating at a handful of stores since about 1989 - first in Nottingham for about 3 years, then in in Manchester (now both abandoned). Despite customers recycling packaging waste into separate bins in the stores, the company had just dumped all the material collected in the Nottingham store, and only the polystyrene from the Manchester stores was sent off to a factory - as an experiment. Yet the court had read how the Nottingham 'scheme' was trumpeted far and wide in company literature as if recycling was a reality at some McDonald's stores - Mr Morris condemned this as an example of McDonald's 'deception' and propaganda.
Mr Morris added that, although the evidence may not have been conclusive, the court had heard of similar McDonald's 'pilot schemes' in other countries (e.g.New Zealand) which also resulted in nothing being recycled by the company.
DISPOSAL PROBLEMS - LANDFILL AND LITTER
The defendants, Mr Morris said, had shown how in some countries (in particular the USA and Germany) McDonald's had been shamed or forced to stop using polystyrene due to its chemical content, its non biodegradeability and the environmental problems with landfill sites. McDonald's had admitted as much, but Mr Oakley had defended the dumping of waste in landfill as an 'environmental benefit' or else, he had said, 'you will end up with lots of vast, empty gravel pits all over the country'. Mr Morris then tore into McDonalds' use of propaganda to deceive the public and to defend their business practices.
The Judge and Mr Morris exchanged views about Mr Oakley and some of his views, Mr Morris forecasting that some quotes from him 'would go down in history'! [In the witness box Mr Oakley had described conditions for chickens crammed into tiny wire mesh battery cages as 'pretty comfortable'. He had explained that he was responsible for the company's UK 'nutrition guides' for customers which described their food as 'nutritious' - he had stated that 'nutritious' meant 'foods that contain nutrients'.]
Turning to the subject of litter, Mr Morris quoted McDonald's UK President who'd stated in the witness box that he'd only expect about 150 drinks cups per day (out of a million drinks sold) to end up as litter. He referred to the evidence of McDonald's witness, the Diector-General of the Tidy Britain Group (an organisation sponsored by McDonald's) who had admitted virtually the whole defence case on this subject - that litter is a serious environmental and public health problem and that McDonald's litter is widespread and perceived to be so. He had also criticised the litter increase as a result of the rise in the last 20 years of the fast food industry. 2 McDonald's store managers, called to testify for McDonald's, had had to admit to the continuing problem around their store, with a total of '10,500' estimated potential items of litter taken out of the store by customers each day.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS CAUSED BY PRODUCTION OF PACKAGING MATERIALS
Mr Morris explained how the defence expert witness Theo Hopkins had criticised the enormous envionmental damage to forests and their natural biodiversity as a result of the massive increase in pulp production. He specifically had demonstrated such damage around the mills and regions supplying the raw material for McDonald's packaging in Europe and N.America. In Mr Morris's opinion, McDonald's expert on the same subject had had to concede the truth of this fact.
As regards polystyrene foam packaging materials, Mr Morris stated that it had been admitted that McDonald's were using foam packaging containing CFCs and HCFCs, and that the company had begun to phase out such chemicals after scientific and public concern, criticism, campaigns and impending legislation. This was in 29 countries in 1989, and still in 3 countries by 1995. McDonald's own expert witness had conceded that these ozone-depleting chemicals had been used in 'significant' amounts, and that ozone depletion was a very serious environmental problem. Mr Morris said that the damage was ongoing and that over the next few decades the result would be millions of people contracting skin cancer.
LACK OF RECYCLED CONTENT
Finally today, Mr Morris explained how McDonald's had been using a tiny percentage of recycled paper in their paper packaging before 1990. The fast food giant began to recognise an increasing public awareness and to develop a public policy on this. He went through each of the packaging items used in Europe by the company and the recycled content before and after 1990. And, he said, it had been accepted by McDonald's in the USA that the word 'recycled' should not be used unless containing a 'substantial' percentage of 'post-consumer' waste (not just 'post-industrial' waste created and reused during the production process). By that definition, much of the current 'recycled' paper packaging could not truthfully be described as such.