McDonald's announced that they plan to begin phasing out the use of plastic straws in its United Kingdom restaurants. In May, they will introduce new paper straws plus they plan to start keeping the straws behind the counter and only offer them to customers by request. It's an environmentally-friendly change from the fast-food giant and one that customers in the U.K. restaurants have been requesting to slow down plastic pollution.
"Customers have told us that they don't want to be given a straw and that they want to have to ask for one, so we're acting on that," Pomroy said. "If you come into McDonald's going forward, you'll be asked if you want a straw."
In addition to changing the way straws are offered to customers, the restaurant chain plans to go to recycled paper wrappings on the straws and biodegradable paper straws. The new straws will be tested starting next month to gauge customers' reactions.
Changing straws is a big deal for McDonald's because their straws are larger than straws at other fast food chains. (Fun fact: McDonald's straws are larger for maximum Coca-Cola fizz to tongue contact, which is one of the reasons why Coke tastes better at McDonald's.) However, given that McDonald's 1,300 U.K. restaurants have almost 4 million customers each day, this change could greatly lower the number of single-use drinking straws used every year, which currently hovers around 8.5 billion.
Other organizations in the U.K. are also moving away from plastic drinking straws. Glasgow, Scotland, has banned their use from its municipal buildings, and other restaurant chains like Pizza Express and Wagamama have also stopped using plastic straws and have moved toward eco-friendly compostable straws.
Here in the United States, cities like Seattle, Washington; Malibu, Davis, and San Luis Obispo, California; and Miami Beach and Fort Myers, Florida have all put either limits or outright bans on plastic straws. American company, Starbucks is one of the largest food services to move towards using less plastic products.
Since switching to paper straws, there has been a mixed response. Many customers are happy that McDonald's is focused on sustainability, but are noticing that paper straws aren't compatible with milkshakes. Some McDonald's customers have took their concerns to Twitter saying the paper straws dissolve in their milkshakes.
On eBay, you can find McDonald's plastic straws being auctioned for over £1000.00. That's over $1,000! I have to say, McDonald's straws are pretty iconic. If you showed me straws from numerous fast food restaurants I couldn't differentiate them, but I could pick out the McDonald's straw. Personally, I would try not to complain and think about being eco-friendly. Reusable stainless steel straws are always an option.
Plastic straws are generally used once and then thrown away; since they aren't biodegradable, they tend to pile up in landfills, or worse, in waterways like storm drains and the ocean with the sea turtles. According to the organization StrawFree.org, plastic straws are one of the top 10 pieces of garbage polluting the ocean.
This article was originally published on March 20th, 2019.