McDonald’s Has Done Something Questionable With Their Straws

August 05, 2019

Just when we thought McDonald’s were doing something positive for the planet, it turns out they haven’t quite got it all figured out. The restaurant chain announced that the paper straws that are being given out in U.K. stores can’t be recycled.

McDonald’s UK switched from plastic straws, which were recyclable, in the fall of 2018, after trying the paper ones out in a few stores earlier in the year. The roll out came just after the U.K. government proposed a ban on plastic straws and cotton buds, with then-Prime Minister Theresa May describing plastic waste as, “one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world.” A year later, in May 2019, the government agreed to the ban, which will go into effect in 2020.

However, some customers were not impressed, complaining that the new paper straws were so weak that they dissolved before they could finish their drinks. This prompted McDonald’s to produce a thicker version — which had unexpected consequences. The materials in the new straws are recyclable: but they’re now so thick that it’s too difficult for the company handling McDonald’s UK’s waste to recycle them. A spokesperson said that the straws have to be thrown away with the regular waste.

Cue typical British understatement:

We knew it all seemed too good to be true.

Perhaps McDonald’s didn’t think this one through.

As observant Twitter user Katie Grant pointed out, the upcoming ban means this isn’t just going to be an issue for McDonald’s.

Even before this news broke, 51,000 anti-paper straw Brits had signed a petition to get the plastic ones back.

One group who really need plastic straws are people with disabilities that make it hard or impossible for them to drink without one:

Although one Twitter user pointed out that long-term, it would be better to have an alternative to plastic AND paper:

Meanwhile, another petition has the opposite agenda…

Plastic is still the worse option, environmentally speaking:

Especially since, as Grant tweeted, those plastic straws might not have been recyclable anyway, meaning they were still going to end up as pollution.

Whereas paper straws may, eventually, break down.

Besides, straws are only the beginning:

As usual, some people have “helpful” solutions of their own:

There are apparently multiple magical materials McDonald’s are overlooking:

As well as money-making opportunities:

However, that could be over-engineering.

Ultimately, going without a straw of any kind is best — if that’s possible for you. And if you can get by with a paper one, that’s still going to have a lesser impact on the environment than one that’s made of plastic. It’s not ideal, but sometimes saving the world sucks.