PaperAge Magazine

McDonald's Says the Paper Straws that Many UK Customers Hate Can't Actually Be Recycled

By Mary Hanbury, retail reporter at Business Insider

McDonald's plastic straws In June of 2018, McDonald's announced a phased rollout of paper straws in all 1,361 McDonald’s restaurants in the UK and Ireland with completion set for 2019.

Aug. 7, 2019 (Business Insider) - Last year, McDonald's made headlines after it announced that it would be pulling plastic straws from all of its UK locations and replacing them with paper straws.

The decision was praised by politicians and environmentalists. Then-environment secretary Michael Gove said it marked a "significant contribution" to helping the environment and that McDonald's was setting "a fine example to other large businesses."

But it turns out these straws are not actually so eco-friendly. In fact, unlike their plastic equivalents, they are completely unrecyclable.

"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.

In a statement emailed to Business Insider, a spokesperson said this was "a wider industry issue, as the infrastructure needed to recycle has not kept pace with the emergence of paper straws."

The news came out after the UK newspaper The Sun reported on an internal memo that advised employees to dispose of the paper straws in the general waste until further notice.

Before the change, McDonald's had said it used 1.8 million plastic straws in its UK restaurants every day, and while those straws were 100% recyclable, it said that more could be done.

Customers strongly criticized the move and said the new straws made it hard to drink milkshakes. An online petition calling for a return to plastic straws has more than 51,000 signatures.