The chain's restaurants in the U.K. and Ireland have banned plastic straws entirely.
In an effort to reduce waste and use of plastic in its restaurants, McDonald's announced today that locations in the United Kingdom and Ireland will officially phase out the use of traditional plastic straws, replacing them with a paper alternative beginning in September. The move came, in part, as a preemptive reaction to a nationwide ban on plastic straws which takes effect in the U.K. next year. In a statement, McDonald's projected that its new policy will be rolled out across 1,361 locations in the region by 2019, but also hinted at a global reassessment of plastic straw use, including in the United States.
"Later this year, McDonald’s will begin testing alternatives in select restaurants in the U.S., France, Sweden, Norway and Australia," the company stated. "In addition to testing alternative materials, in several markets including Malaysia, we will begin tests to offer straws upon request only." Plastic alternative tests are already underway in Belgium. Earlier this year, McDonald's U.S. shareholders voted down a proposal to move away from plastic straws, however, some municipalities like New York City, Berkeley, CA, Oakland, CA and Vancouver, Canada have considered or enacted their own measures to limit or ban them.
McDonald's further explained that, other than political pressure, these tests also support its plan to source all of its packaging "from renewable, recycled, or certified sources" by 2025. The paper straws are said to be sourced sustainably.
Oddly enough, getting rid of plastic straws isn't just an environmental shift, it could also be an aesthetic one. According to a book written by Den Fujita, the founder of McDonald's Japan, the chain's plastic straws were designed so that, while drinking a milkshake, they'd mimic our earliest infant feeding instincts. Whether or not the new paper straws will also live up to that claim remains to be seen.