McDonald’s U.K. swapped recyclable plastic straws for non-recyclable paper ones

Photo: ddukang (iStock)

Early last year, McDonald’s U.K. announced that it would phase out its usage of plastic straws in response to a growing global push to stop using non-biodegradable products, especially those designed for single use. In addition to studying replacements for plastic straws in all locations, all McDonald’s in the U.K. and Ireland have been supplied with a thicker paper straw since late 2018.

However, as BBC News reports, that thicker paper straw is posing some issues. After “some customers were unhappy with the new straws, saying they dissolved before a drink could be finished, with milkshakes particularly hard to drink,” McDonald’s thickened the design of the straw. As a result, the company has now had to advise consumers that the current straw cannot be recycled, at least for the time being.

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In a statement, a McDonald’s spokesman suggested that the issue is only temporary, but that the paper straws should temporarily be thrown away instead: “As a result of customer feedback, we have strengthened our paper straws, so while the materials are recyclable, their current thickness makes it difficult for them to be processed by our waste solution providers, who also help us recycle our paper cups.” That said, they’re not simply going into the trash either: “This waste from our restaurants does not go to landfill, but is used to generate energy.” Still, there’s now a petition circulating for McDonald’s to bring back plastic straws.

Many have pointed out the irony of McDonald’s swapping out plastic straws, which were recyclable, for thicker paper ones that are not. But let’s acknowledge that some people throw those plastic straws in the trash, where they last practically forever in landfills. At least if the paper straws were to end up in landfills or on the side of the road (don’t litter like an asshole), they’d still break down more quickly than their plastic counterparts.

For whatever consumer frustrations might exist with the growing number of straw bans around the world, at least major international companies are attempting to decrease their environmental footprint in some way. It’s probably not going to singlehandedly save our planet, but it’s a start.

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