Is this the beginning of the end of the plastic straw?
McDonald’s on Friday said that it will test alternatives to plastic straws in multiple markets around the world, including the U.S., as it works on a shift to paper straws in the U.K. and Ireland.
The company said that its restaurants in those two countries will begin shifting to paper straws in September and will go all-paper by next year at its 1,361 locations in the two countries, joining a number of restaurant chains there making such a move.
McDonald’s said that its changes on straws are part of its broader effort to get all of its packaging from renewable, recycled or certified sources.
The company said that it has been testing paper straws in the U.K. and has started testing plastic straw alternatives in Belgium.
It also said that it would start testing alternatives in the U.S., France, Sweden, Norway and Australia.
The U.S. is the world’s largest restaurant market, and McDonald’s is the world’s largest restaurant chain, with 37,000 locations worldwide. If the company were to ditch plastic straws globally, or even in the U.S., that would put a burgeoning movement to ditch plastic straws into hyperdrive, likely leading numerous competitors to do the same.
As it is, McDonald’s simply testing nonplastic straws adds considerable weight to the movement, which is growing in intensity on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In the U.S., Union Square Hospitality Group and The Greene Turtle have been among restaurant companies that have ditched plastic straws.
Environmentalists have been championing the issue as part of an effort to reduce the use of plastic, given the concerns about the impact waste plastic is having on oceans and sea life, in particular.
These groups have been putting pressure on McDonald’s to adopt the movement. Shareholders voted against a measure this spring that would have required the company to switch to paper straws.
But the company clearly views a shift to paper as a way to bolster its own credentials as a forward-thinking company. Earlier this year, McDonald’s vowed to use only renewable or recyclable packaging by 2025. And the company has been working toward more sustainable sources for its food products.
“McDonald’s is committed to using our scale for good and working to find sustainable solutions for plastic straws globally,” Francesca DeBiase, executive vice president of global supply chain and sustainability, said in a statement.