McDonalds will switch to paper straws after customer campaign

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Every now and then, there is a real social shift, the like of which we are seeing now with public attitudes towards single-use plastic. The “Blue Planet Effect” is growing in momentum and multinationals are starting to review their policies and buying habits.

McDonald’s is one such business that is taking its plastic waste recycling seriously and from next year, it will remove plastic straws from all its 1,361 restaurants across Britain and replace them with paper straws.

The decision to remove plastic straws was taken on the back of a huge customer response with almost half a million customers petitioning the business to do more about plastic recycling and to reduce their plastic waste.

The petition was started by The Sum of Us, who painted a dire picture of the amount of plastic being dumped into our oceans, killing marine life and seabirds, changing the world forever. The Sum of Us describes itself as a community “committed to curbing the growing power of corporations” and is starting to get real traction with its campaigns.

The petition continues and is just 5,000 off the half a million mark. The Sum of Us is keen to keep going and gather ever more signatures so that other countries, and other businesses, are encouraged to follow suit.

The US burger chain has completed a trial at several branches in the UK and found that replacing plastic straws with paper versions will not have a significant impact on the business, and rather will reduce the plastic waste from the business by a huge margin; at the current rate, the McDonald’s restaurants in the UK alone use a staggering 1.8m plastic straws every day. The trial ended positively and will now be rolled out across the country in a phased project ending some time next year in 2019.

For a company like McDonald’s, there is also a huge PR benefit in being one of the first big corporations to take a decision like this, and there has certainly been no shortage of media coverage in the UK. The media are talking heavily about how McDonald’s as a business has listened to its customers and taken a huge decision as a result.

McDonald’s Chief Executive in the UK, Paul Pomroy, explained that the decision has been taken in light of the wider debate, and the growing concern from society about the amount of plastic waste, as well as the consumer petition and demand for a more environmentally responsible solution to the straw problem.

The paper straws to replace the current plastic offer will be sourced from suppliers from Northern Ireland and Wales.

The decision to replace plastic straws does not yet apply to the 36,000 outlets across the rest of the world, which is perhaps a little disappointing. It is hoped that McDonald’s will press ahead with a global rollout of this switch, as a matter of urgency. In the UK, it comes before the government follows through with a much-talked-about ban on single-use plastics like straws or cotton buds to improve plastic waste recycling statistics.

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