Some savvy U.K. customers are trying to cash in on a recent eco-friendly change.

By Adam Campbell-Schmitt
April 29, 2019

In 2018, the United Kingdom-based branch of fast food giant McDonald’s made a significant commitment to rid its nearly 1,400 restaurants of plastic straws in 2019 while testing non-plastic options in other countries. Similar movements have been gaining traction in the United States, with states like California sort-of-not-really banning plastic straws and big straw dispensing companies like Starbucks and Shake Shack pledging to get rid of them altogether.

All in all, it’s a good move for the environment (though there’s a whole lot of single-use plastics other than just straws that need to be addressed with equal fervor). But as paper straws have replaced the 1.8 million iconic red and gold-striped McDonald’s plastic straws used in the U.K. annually, fans of the fast food chain’s milkshakes have taken to the internet to register their dissatisfaction with the switch. Paper, it seems, doesn’t quite live up to the previous plastic drinking implement. (We also asked bartenders their thoughts on the paper version, read their reactions here.) Suddenly, plastic McDonald's straws are in low supply and high demand, which might be why The Mirror reports that there’s at least one eBay user who’s attempting to sell a McDonald’s straw (in its original wrapper) for the hefty sum of €1,000 or about US$1,118.

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"Brilliant uncirculated brand new McDonald's straw this is soon to become the stuff of legend, imagine your about 50 years older than you are now, telling your grandchildren how you got given plastic straws from McDonald's and they will look up to you like god!” the post reads. If it seems a little outlandish, the real intent of this stunt may be revealed by additional encouragement to sign the 40,000-signature-strong petition asking McDonald’s to bring plastic straws back.

Portsmouth’s The News also found another seller offering a 37-pack of straws, and the bids (actual bids!) had hit £520 (about US$673) as of last Friday. And since then, the Daily Mail has found single straws with asking prices from £0.99 to £5,000.

If McDonald’s Japan founder Den Fujita is to be believed, there may be some deep, instinctual reason for all of this anti-plastic backlash. In a book on business strategies, Fujita suggested that the design of McDonald’s straws is meant to mimic breastfeeding when used with a milkshake. Search your feelings and decide on the veracity of that one for yourself. Perhaps more importantly, I want to know if the new straws still up your beatboxing game!

McDonald’s has also made moves to test non-plastic straw options in the U.S. as part of its commitment to source all of its packaging from renewable, recycled, or certified resources by 2025. Perhaps the U.K.’s reaction will give the international chain a chance to work out the kinks before a full roll-out stateside.

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