Last September, McDonald’s swapped their plastic straws, which were 100% recyclable, for paper ones which, it turns out, cannot be recycled.
In a bid to appear more environmentally aware, the fast-food giant removed their plastic straws from all 1,361 restaurants in the UK and Ireland and replaced them with paper ones, which they dubbed to be more ‘eco-friendly’. In the UK alone, McDonald’s uses an estimated 1.8 million straws every day, so the move was a significant one in the reduction of their creation of single use plastics, but the new versions did not go down well with their customers. The US chain received thousands of complaints claiming that the thin straws dissolved in fizzy drinks and simply did not work with their thick milkshakes.
In response to this criticism, McDonald’s reinforced their paper straws which means that while all materials used to create them are recyclable, their thickness makes it difficult to be processed by their waste management providers. It has been reported that an internal memo confirms this by telling employees that ‘paper straws are not yet recyclable’ and goes on to advise staff that the paper straws ‘should be disposed of in general waste until further notice.’
The firm are keen to stress however that the waste produced in their restaurants doesn’t go to landfill but is instead used to generate energy. The memo reportedly goes on to say that this is only a temporary measure while the US food chain and its waste solution partners work on a way to recycle the paper straws.
Friends of the Earth campaigner Julian Kirby has suggested McDonalds stop using straws altogether as ‘we should be thinking about how to avoid waste creation’, not just on how to recycle it, and that ‘lips have been a waste free alternative for millions of years.’
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