Almost half a million people in UK and Ireland signed a petition asking McDonald’s to replace plastic straws with paper straws – and the fast food chain has finally listened. Lat week, it revealed its plans to create environment-friendly alternatives to the plastic straws and test them in locations around the world by the end of 2018.

McDonald’s announced its decision to replace plastic straws with paper straws in UK and Scotland after over 500,000 people signed an online petition in favor of the transition

Phasing Out Plastic Straws

McDonald’s is undoubtedly the most popular fast food chain in the world which sees over 60 million customers walk through its doors every day. And if every one of them slurped on milkshakes or fizzy drinks with their meals, it could mean that the restaurant is handing out almost 60 million plastic straws every day – which eventually end up in landmines and oceans, putting marine life in danger.

But the company says that it no longer wants to contribute to the plastic pollution in the oceans which is why it is planning to ban plastic straws in all of its locations across UK and Ireland, starting this September. All drinks and shakes served at the fast food chain will now come with paper straws instead. The company announced its decision on Facebook after over 500,000 people signed an online petition demanding that McDonald’s stop using plastic straws to cut back on nonbiodegradable ocean waste.

The company reportedly uses almost 2 million straws a day just in UK. Although it is slowly transitioning towards 100 per cent renewable or recycled packaging, a target that is likely to be achieved by 2025. Of all the plastic cutlery used by restaurants and fast food chains, one-time-use straws are the most problematic because they are generally discarded after being used once. Marine ecologists say that plastic straws make up a majority of the waste found in the oceans. An equivalent of a truck full of plastic straws pollutes the oceans every minute.

Europe’s Transition to Sustainable Alternatives

While talking to BBC, McDonald’s said that it heeded warnings from environmentalists about the impact of plastic waste on marine life and human diet which is why it has decided to do its part by taking a major step towards a sustainable future and replacing plastic straws with paper kind.

The process of phasing out plastic straws will only begin in September and by the end of 2019, all McDonald’s chains in UK and Ireland will have recycling facilities for their paper straws. The fast food giant told The Guardian that is also planning to test alternatives to plastic cutlery in the US and other parts of Europe but hasn’t disclosed what the new straws will be made out of. In certain South East Asian countries like Malaysia, McDonald’s will only hand out straws to customers upon request.

Bon Appetit made a major announcement last month when it said that it was banning the use of plastic straws from its 1000-plus cafes scattered around 33 states

U.K. Secretary of State for Environment, Michael Gove commended the burger chain for the bold move which could prove to be a major contribution towards preserving the environment. He says that more companies should follow suit and say no to plastic – especially the single-use kind used in the food and packaging industries.

The ban comes during a time when European countries are considering a ban against single-use plastics. British Prime Minister, Theresa May, already put forth a proposal for phasing out plastic straws and cutlery within the next few years. Many companies in the UK have already taken the hint and transitioned towards sustainable alternatives to plastic.

Plans to Test Alternatives in U.S.

A wind of change is also sweeping over America where coastal cities like Miami Beach and Malibu have banned single-use plastics. Whereas in Seattle, plastic straws will be outlawed starting next month. Bon Appetit made a major announcement last month when it said that it was banning the use of plastic straws from its 1000-plus cafes scattered around 33 states.

But despite McDonald’s announcement to phase out plastic straws, the company is grappling with the cost of replacing them with other alternatives. CEO Steve Easterbrook said that, as much as he wants to ban the use of plastic utensils used in his fast food chain, there aren’t any viable non-plastic alternatives on the market that can be manufactured at a large scale.

Instead of replacing straws in the near future, the company is looking into enhancing its recycling capabilities as a more financially viable option. The fast food giant is also looking into reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 36% by 2030 to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Do you think more restaurants and fast food chains should follow in McDonald’s footsteps and ban plastic straws?






19 Comments

  1. Plastic straws are not the only ones that should be banned in fast food chains, they should ban every type of plastic. If they’re going to try and make a difference, might as well as do it all. What the McDonald’s CEO said about not having any viable non-plastic alternatives is just the lamest excuse. If they really want to help the environment, they would find ways to do it. After all, we have advanced technology now, why not use it for the benefit of the world?

  2. Can we please just stop with these plastic waste movements? You do realize it’s a huge hassle to eliminate these plastic straws, right? Plastic straws help you drink your beverage easier, especially when you’re sucking the little pearls or fruits you have in your smoothies. I believe proper waste segregation is enough. Don’t ban the use of plastic straws!

  3. Why do businesses need to wait for their customers to request or complain about a specific thing, before they actually do something? They are very well aware that for years now, plastics are harmful to the environment

  4. I think other famous restaurants and fast food chains should follow McDonald’s initiative to ban plastic straws. These big corporations should realize they’re the ones who mainly contribute to our waste problems. With millions of plastic straws, bags, and bottles they produce every single day, our world will become a sea of plastics someday (if they don’t do anything about it). I think they should be responsible for reducing their own waste.

    • While I agree with you that these big companies play a significant part in our waste problems, I think you shouldn’t only blame them solely for our problems with plastics. I believe the key to eliminating plastics waste is within us. We should start ditching the usage of plastics and start using recyclable materials like reusable eco-bags, metal or paper straws, and reusable container for our water or fluid intake.

      • Hi Michael. I agree with your statements. The desire to eliminate plastics for a cleaner, greener environment should start within us. But you should realize an individual’s initiative really wouldn’t make a significant change unless it’s backed by a large corporation like McDonald’s. Just imagine if one customer refused to use a plastic straw while the rest of 50, even 100 customers use it. Will his or her efforts make a significant impact? I don’t believe so. But if McDonald’s will implement the ban, then I believe not only that one customer will be able to ditch using plastics, but the rest of the 100 customers too. Now that’s how you make a significant change! I believe the keyword here is cooperation 🙂

  5. Paper straws are better than plastic straws but at the same time, we also need our trees. Many of us don’t need straws and only people with disabilities need them. So cutting trees for making straws is a lose-lose situation in my opinion.

  6. I agree plastics have become a huge problem, but plastic straws? Come on this is just a drop in a very large bucket. Why don’t we ban plastic grocery bags or plastic garbage bags? Or plastic cups? Plastic is everywhere. If you don’t believe it just take a look inside your own fridge and pantry.

  7. I don’t buy it. I think this is a gimmick by McDonald’s to take the heat off of them for a while before they resort to plastic straws again! These corporations always pull stunts when they’re on the spotlight, but as soon as they get the heat off of them, they are at it again! Smh…

  8. This is really a great news, especially for those living in the UK and Ireland! It’s about high time we ban the use of plastics, and eliminating plastic straws is a great move to start this advocacy! My heart bleeds every time I see videos of marine creatures who eat plastic straws (mistaking it for food) or get entangled in plastic bags. I believe it’s still not too late to save Mother Earth. These little changes will have a bigger impact on eliminating waste in the near future. Kudos to Mcdonalds for this movement!

  9. Plastic straws are not the only ones that should be banned in fast food chains, they should ban every type of plastic. If they’re going to try and make a difference

  10. Way to go McDonald’s UK! Hopefully every McDonald’s in the entire world would see you as an example, plastic straws are unnecessary and harmful anyways. Change is coming indeed.

  11. This is definitely a step in the right direction in terms of environmental protection strategies. Hopefully, other mega-corporations in the UK such as KFC can take similar steps and introduce paper straws for their consumers to minimize plastic pollution.

  12. A truck of plastic a day, seriously? The numbers have surely been downplayed here. There’s at least 3 tons of plastic waste produce by McDonald’s. As always, the media is working with these companies and they are given ‘special salaries’ to downplay the numbers!

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