Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Why McDonald’s New Paper Straws Aren't Recyclable

Business
Why McDonald’s New Paper Straws Aren't Recyclable
A plastic cup for a shake, a beverage cup for soft drinks and disposable plastic crockery from McDonald's lie in a garbage can in Berlin, Germany on June 28. Gerald Matzka / picture alliance via Getty Images

McDonald's ditched plastic straws in the United Kingdom and Ireland last fall and replaced them with paper ones made from recyclable materials. It turns out though the new straws can't be recycled. The plastic ones could, according to CNN.


McDonald's received praise for an environmentally sound move when it replaced the 1.8 million plastic straws it uses everyday in the UK and Ireland. It said the move was part of a wider effort to protect the environment. Now the British newspaper The Sun revealed an internal memo that said the paper straws were not able to be recycled and should be put in the general waste bin.

"While the materials are recyclable, their current thickness makes it difficult for them to be processed by our waste solution providers, who also help us recycle our paper cups," a McDonald's spokesman told the UK's Press Association news agency, as CNN reported.

So while the straws are technically 100 percent recyclable material, the infrastructure to recycle them does not yet exist. In order to recycle them, they would have to be individually separated from cups and other rubbish.

"They cannot currently be processed by waste solution providers or local authorities unless collected separately," a McDonald's spokesperson wrote to CNBC. The spokesperson added that the paper straw conundrum is part of a broader issue plaguing the waste management industry. "The infrastructure needed to recycle has not kept pace with the emergence of paper straws."

Before anyone advocates a campaign back to plastic straws, keep in mind that infrastructure problems meant McDonald's was also dumping plastic straws into the waste bin, according to CNBC.

The problem started shortly after McDonald's rolled out its paper straws, which drew public condemnation for dissolving in soda and making it difficult to pull up milkshakes. The Independent reported that customers were asking for coffee lids to cover their drinks, which countered the motivation behind the move to paper straws.

In response, McDonald's worked with its straw supplier to create the thicker paper straw.

"We are working with our waste management providers to find a sustainable solution, as we did with paper cups, and so the advice to put paper straws in general waste is therefore temporary," the company said, as Fox News reported. "This waste from our restaurants does not go to landfill but is used to generate energy."

The move away from plastic straws follows a backlash to the product after a 2015 viral video showed in graphic, gory detail the process of extracting a plastic straw from a sea turtle's nose. And the British government has put in place a ban on plastic drinks stirrers, straws and plastic-stemmed cotton swabs starting in April 2020.

"It really can't be that difficult to replace plastic straws," said Ed Davey, the UK's former secretary of Energy and Climate Change. "People will be left wondering where this was just greenwash or a monumental cock-up."

Colette Pichon Battle, attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy. Colette Pichon Battle

By Karen L. Smith-Janssen

Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A palm tree plantation in Malaysia. Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Getty Images Plus

Between 2000 and 2013, Earth lost an area of undisturbed ecosystems roughly the size of Mexico.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A home burns during the Bobcat Fire in Juniper Hills, California on September 18, 2020. Kyle Grillot / AFP/ Getty Images

By Stuart Braun

"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."

Read More Show Less
A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world. PickPik

A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world, The Guardian reported. The study examined 25 years of carbon dioxide emissions and wealth inequality from 1990 to 2015.

Read More Show Less
The label of one of the recalled thyroid medications. FDA

If you are taking medication for an underactive thyroid, check your prescription.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch