McDonald’s introduces paper straws in landmark move to eradicate single-use plastics


18 Jun 2018 --- McDonald’s has announced a “phased rollout” of paper straws to replace plastic straws across all of its 1,361 UK and Ireland restaurants from September this year. The transition will be complete by 2019, while the fast-food giants are also trialing alternatives to plastic straws in Belgium and planning tests for select restaurants in the US, France, Sweden, Norway and Australia later this year.

The move comes after the EU recently ordered a new directive designed to combat plastic ocean waste. The Directive applies measures to the 10 “highest polluting” single-use plastic products, which includes straws. The BBC reports that McDonald’s uses 1.8 million plastic straws every day in the UK alone.

According to the EU, plastics make up 85 percent of marine litter across the world. Plastics are even reaching people's lungs and dinner tables, with microplastics in the air, water and food having an unknown impact on their health.

McDonald’s UK and Ireland will begin transitioning to paper straws in all of its restaurants starting in September. This move supports McDonald’s goal to source 100 percent of guest packaging from renewable, recycled, or certified sources by 2025 and to have guest packaging recycling in all restaurants globally.

“McDonald’s is committed to using our scale for good and working to find sustainable solutions for plastic straws globally,” says Francesca DeBiase, Executive Vice President, Global Supply Chain and Sustainability. “In addition to the exciting news from the UK, we are testing straw alternatives in other countries to provide the best experience for our customers. We hope this work will support industry-wide change and bring sustainable solutions to scale.”

In addition to tests that began earlier this year in the UK, McDonald’s has also begun testing alternatives to plastic straws in Belgium.  Later this year, McDonald’s will begin testing alternatives in select restaurants in the U.S., France, Sweden, Norway and Australia. In addition to testing alternative materials, in several markets including Malaysia, McDonald’s will begin tests to offer straws upon request only.

McDonald’s joins Burger King, JD Wetherspoon, Costa Coffee, Pizza Express and Wagamama in the growing list of restaurants taking steps to eradicate plastic straws.

Global packaging suppliers, Huhtamaki, will produce the paper straws at its plant in Belfast, as will Transcend Packaging, a start-up company in Wales, according to McDonald’s.

Plastic campaigner response
“It is a first step of this big fast food company to reduce their plastic footprint. Just a first step, set because of the pressure of the worldwide community against plastic pollution,” Maria Westerbos, Founder and Director of Plastic Soup tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

“40 percent of all plastic that is produced each year (360 million tons in 2018) is single-use. We throw these so-called SUPs away within 20 minutes,” she says. “Plastic is an oil-based product, which means that we throw 144 million tons straight away. That is a very huge oil spill, harming the planet.”

“The fast-food industry ranks high when we look at polluting sectors. It has a very big plastic footprint and should reduce that as soon as possible. There is more and more evidence, that plastic is not only harming animal life but also human health,” Westerbos adds.

Reusable straw innovation
The regulatory clamp down on single-use plastics has created market openings for reusable products. FinalStraw, created by Canadians Emma Cohen and Miles Pepper, is the world’s first reusable and collapsible straw. The straw is made from stainless steel and the container is made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic.

FinalStraw is machine-washable, BPA-free and can be used for both hot and cold drinks. The case also comes with a cleaning squeegee. The creators estimate that one FinalStraw can prevent 584 straws from polluting the natural environment every year.

The project was launched on Kickstarter and exceeded its target of US$11,882, accumulating pledges of US$620,584 in the first 24 hours. FinalStraw is available for pre-order at US$20, with deliveries expected for November this year.

By Joshua Poole

This feature is provided by FoodIngredientsFirst's sister website, PackagingInsights.

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