McDonald's to replace plastic straws with paper ones

The global fast-food chain said it will switch to paper straws in all 1,361 of its restaurants in the United Kingdom and Ireland by 2019 and plans to test alternatives to plastic straws in other markets throughout the world later this year.

McDonald's said its decision followed a successful trial in selected restaurants earlier this year.

The activist group SumOfUs estimates that every day, McDonald's alone dispenses millions of plastic straws that customers soon discard, leaving them to litter beaches or clog waterways and fill trash dumps.

Because of its massive size, the global hamburger chain can effect significant change in the supply chain, as it did when it announced it would use eggs only from cage-free hens. The move to paper straws will be completed next year.

In May, McDonald's shareholders overwhelmingly rejected a proposal asking the company for a report about the business risks associated with plastic straws. And in Malaysia, McDonald's will try a new approach to dispensing straws - giving them out only if a customer requests one.

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A number of other companies have made the move to paper straws in recent times, including Burger King, Costa Coffee, Wagamama and pub chain JD Wetherspoon, all of whom operate in Ireland.

"We all have a responsibility to our environment and this simple yet effective initiative is a fine example to other large businesses", he said.

The move comes as pressure grows on companies to reduce single-use plastic products and packaging, amid concerns over plastic pollution in the oceans where items such as straws end up harming wildlife like turtles and fish. It argued that straws can be recycled together with cartons if they are pushed back into the box.

The replacement straws will use paper from sustainable sources, the company said.

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

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