McDonald’s Straw Dilemma

The fast-food chain’s shareholders will consider a proposal for the restaurant to come up with plastic straw alternatives.

May 23, 2018

OAK BROOK, Ill. – The backlash against plastic straws will gain momentum this week when McDonald’s shareholders consider a proposal to look into alternatives for its restaurants around the world, USA Today reports. The fast-food industry has been hit hard from environmental groups and others railing against its overuse of hard-to-recycle packaging, which includes plastic foam cups, boxes, carryout bags, trays, plastic wrap and plastic straws.

McDonald’s says it works hard to lower waste and increase recycling, including its pledge to discontinue use of foam cups by the end of this year. However, the company recommends shareholders not vote for the straw study measure.

“We continue to work to find a more sustainable solution for plastic straws globally,” McDonald’s said in a statement. “In the meantime, we have adopted compostable straws in certain markets to meet regulations while we work with packaging experts to develop a planet-friendly, cost-effective answer for all McDonald’s restaurants.”

SumOfUs has garnered close to half a million names on an online petition asking McDonald’s to get rid of plastic straws. “Straws are an important issue because, for the most part, we can do without them,” said Sondhya Gupta, a senior campaigner for SumOfUs. “You just get them popped into a drink without thinking about them. They are small and they are light, so they are difficult to recycle.”

In the United Kingdom, McDonald’s has already begun to switch plastic straws with paper versions in some locations as a test. “Additionally, customers have told us that they want to have to ask for a straw, so we’re acting on that and moving them behind the counter,” said Paul Pomroy, CEO of McDonald's UK. “Together with our customers, we can do our bit for the environment and use fewer straws.”

Currently, a few localities have enacted bans on plastic straws, while Alaska Airlines recently indicated it would no longer hand out plastic drink stirrers on flights.