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McDonald’s Begins Transition Away From Plastic Straws

plastic straws McDonald's
(Photo Credit: Mike Mozart, Flickr Creative Commons)

McDonald’s restaurants will switch from plastic straws to paper ones in the UK and Ireland next year, the global foodservice retailer announced today. In addition, the chain plans to pilot alternatives to plastic straws in several other countries later this year.

“McDonald’s is committed to using our scale for good and working to find sustainable solutions for plastic straws globally,” said Francesca DeBiase, the company’s executive vice president, global supply chain and sustainability.

Starting this September, all restaurants in the UK and Ireland will start transitioning to paper straws as part of the company’s goal to source 100% of consumer-facing packaging from renewable, recycled, or certified sources by 2025 and to have packaging recycling for guests in all restaurants worldwide. In January McDonald’s agreed to phase out polystyrene packaging.

The company says that alternative material straw testing has begun in Belgium. In addition, select McDonald’s restaurants in the US, France, Sweden, Norway, and Australia are expected to start testing alternatives to plastic straws later this year.

Last year a watchdog group called SumOfUs launched a campaign urging McDonald’s to ban plastic straws. Their online petition says the single-use plastics are harming seabirds and marine mammals. Currently the petition has more than 489,000 signatures.

The straw announcement from McDonald’s comes at a time when government restrictions on single-use plastics are intensifying. Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration made moves in March to ban single-use plastics such as straws, bags, cups, and utensils. The European Commission proposed a ban on 10 single-use plastic products such as straws earlier this month. Both bans target 2030 for full implementation.

Besides looking at alternative materials for straws, McDonald’s also plans to experiment with giving out straws upon request only in several markets that include Malaysia.

“We are eager to learn from these tests around the world to develop solutions that are scalable across the globe,” the company says.

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