Mother knows best. Especially the ultimate mother: Mother Earth. We've been giving her a lot of attitude over the years. Every plastic water bottle chucked into the trash (and not the recycling) gets piled into a landfill. The garbage man is unfortunately not a magician who makes it all disappear. Despite our behavior, we can start saying sorry, and one major company is doing just that. McDonald’s is phasing out plastic straws and it’s a major eco-friendly move. Just in time for Mother's Day — I mean, Earth Day (Apr. 22, for those that don't know) — no less!
The 1,300 or so McDonald's locations in the UK will start to phase out plastic straws and replace them with paper straws starting in May, Sky News reported. According to Sky News, "It will also try out a scheme where straws are kept behind the counter, and only given out to customers on request." Paul Pomroy, chief executive of McDonald's told Sky News, "Customers have told us that they don't want to be given a straw and that they want to have to ask for one, so we're acting on that." He continues by saying, "We've been on a journey over the past 10 years with recycling, from taking out foam and polystyrene to where we are now — with Big Mac 'clam' boxes that are made with recycled board." All that's left to tackle is the pesky (non-recyclable) lids that shield our sodas.
This is major move for fast food. According to the World Watch Blog, "McDonald’s alone provides single-use plastic straws through 36,000 restaurants in over 100 countries." Paper straws would be biodegradable, and therefore not seep unwanted chemicals into our soil. Phew.
Fast food chains are known and beloved by many for the convenience they provide. Need a burger in a hot minute? Your order will be up faster than you can say, "with a side of fries, please." McDonald's pit stops have been a part of most millennials childhood narratives. Whether on road trips to camp or heading home from an away soccer game, you'd stop by the golden arches for a happy meal or at least a bucket of fries. But fast food chains are also notorious for their use of plastic.
If you're wondering why plastic is one of the environments biggest villains, it's because it never goes away. It just haunts us, taking up space, caving in on us straw by straw. According to Plastic Pollution Coalition, "There are thousands of landfills in the United States. Buried beneath each one of them, toxic chemicals from plastics drain out and seep into groundwater, flowing downstream into lakes and rivers." Want to shiver some more? Plastic Pollution Coalition explain another fact, "Americans discard more than 30 million tons of plastic a year. Only 8 percent gets recycled. The rest ends up in landfills, is burned or becomes litter." We have to do better. And thankfully, McDonald's is taking that seriously.
McDonald's is taking initiative and making it apparent that we need to chill on the straws. It's McDonald's global mission to move towards more sustainable packaging. The fast food giant knows the numbers and is aware of their impact. A statement on the official website reads, "By 2025, our goal is to recycle guest packaging in 100% of McDonald’s restaurants. We understand that recycling infrastructure, regulations and consumer behaviors vary from city to city and country to country, but we plan to be part of the solution and help influence powerful change." It might not be an overnight change, but it's a move in the eco-friendly direction.
We can hope to see paper straws in all McDonald's locations worldwide but we ~know~ we'll see them in the UK starting in May. In the meantime, if you're located elsewhere and don't want to leave a plastic footprint with your Happy Meal, you can always purchase a stainless steel straw to slurp up a McFlurry. You know, for the earth.