It’s the last straw—for plastic, that is.
McDonald’s recently announced that it was phasing out plastic straws at certain European locations and vowed to remove them in its United Kingdom and Ireland locations by the end of 2019.
The decision by the US fast-food chain to switch from plastic to paper straws follows a trial at a number of outlets in the past two months. The firm uses around 1.8m straws a day in the UK.
The switch will affect McDonald’s 1,361 outlets in the UK, but not the rest of its 36,000 restaurants worldwide.
However, McDonald’s said it is looking for solutions in other countries.
The company, which has also been testing alternatives in Belgium, will begin trials in select restaurants in the U.S., France, Sweden and Norway later this year as it seeks to source more of its packaging across the globe from recycled sources.
Francesca DeBiase, executive vice president of global supply chain and sustainability, said: “McDonald’s is committed to using our scale for good and working to find sustainable solutions for plastic straws globally.
“In addition to the exciting news from the UK today, we are testing straw alternatives in other countries to provide the best experience for our customers.”
McDonald’s move added it to a growing list of other organizations seeking to cut down on single-use plastic.
Several large UK restaurant chains such as Pizza Express and Wagamama have already stopped using plastic straws.
And a group of more than 40 companies including Coca Cola (KO), Nestle (NSRGF), Unilever(UL) and Procter & Gamble (PG) pledged earlier this year to slash the amount of plastic they use and throw away in the United Kingdom.
Ikea and SeaWorld have also promised to stop using plastic straws and bags.
… Royal Caribbean has promised to nix them by the end of this year, joining fellow cruise companies Hurtigruten and Peregrine Adventures who’ve made similar pledges. Alaska Airlines is getting rid of plastic drink stirrers starting next month. And the food service company Bon Appétit Management, whose 1,000-plus locations in 33 states range from the Art Institute of Chicago to the University of Portland, will stop using plastic straws and stirrers by September 2019.
The organizations’ moves aren’t just an attempt to gain positive PR and answer consumer calls for sustainability, either—at least, not in markets outside of the United States.
The European Union and the UK’s environmental minister, Michael Gove, are considering banning single-use plastic.
The minister said in February he wanted to ban plastic straws – as well as other single-use plastic products such as drinks stirrers and cotton buds – in a bid to reduce the pollution of rivers and oceans that harms wildlife.
Last month the EU also proposed a ban on throwaway plastic products.
In April, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the United Kingdom would look to ban plastic-stemmed cotton swabs, stirrers and straws. She urged Commonwealth countries to commit to the fight against plastic waste at a meeting in London.
Though McDonald’s move was widely applauded, decisions to do away with plastic have been met with some concern—namely, providing accessibility to consumers with disabilities who requireplastic straws. However, McDonald’s—as well as other organizations that are switching to paper straws and other alternatives—will still have plastic straws available to people who ask for them.
What do you think of the announcement, PR Daily readers?