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The Issue Of Paper Straws Dogs McDonalds' Enviro Rep

05 August 2019 | Updated 06 August 2019

Paper straws in workplaces and restaurants are as unrecyclable as their plastic forerunners. McDonalds' environmental reputation has been sullied by not telling their customers the truth until now.

A spokesperson for McDonalds told ThisweekinFM: "Like our new paper straws, the plastic straws we used to use were recyclable – however the infrastructure was not in place to do so. Yes - that means they cannot be recycled at this moment in time."


No infrastructure

The paper straw industry is a new one – a year ago there were very few businesses using them and there were no manufacturers of paper straws in the UK. More to the point, there was and is no infrastructure to recycle them.

Following an open consultation, a government ban on the supply of plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds will come into force in England in April 2020 – so paper straws will likely become more popular and infrastructure will be needed by business as well as at a local authority level in order to recycle them.


Customer demand

The McDonald’s spokesperson continued: “Last year our customers asked us to change our plastic straws to paper ones, so we made that switch. We use 1.8million straws a day, so this is a significant step in reducing single-use plastic.

“We have moved quickly to paper straws – balancing the more positive impact they have on the environment with finding a straw which meets customer expectations. Moving at speed means that while the materials the straws are made from are recyclable they cannot currently be processed by waste solution providers and local authorities.

"This is a wider industry issue, as the infrastructure needed to recycle has not kept pace with the emergence of paper straws.

“We are working with our waste solution providers to find a solution.

"Our current advice to put paper straws in general waste is therefore temporary."


Great recyclable swindle

Businesses and individuals all over the UK are waking up to the 'great recyclable swindle' - having for years believed separating recyclable materials in waste streams made a difference, it has become obvious that in many instances there is no mechanism for recycling the materials and thus they still end up in landfill. Worse still, those materials are exported to countries (for a price) where they create waste mountains as those countries don't have a recycling mechanism either.


Wool over eyes

McDonalds has deployed their best PR and spin doctors to help cover their embarrassing attempt to imply their new paper straws are more environmentally friendly than they are.

The McDonalds' spokesperson said: "The waste from our restaurants does not go to landfill but is used to generate energy.

"Over the past few years, the number of items we recycle has increased in line with our volume growth, in particular we have seen an increase in cups recycled – with 40 million recycled last year. However we recognise this is something we need to continue to focus on.

“We are boosting training and education in our restaurants to increase our recycling rates and also encourage customers to recycle."


Final commitment

The spokesperson continued: " We will continue to look at where we can innovate on paper straws. It’s now important that the final piece of putting the right infrastructure in place [to be able to recycle them in the country they are sold in] is focused on."

Picture: McDonalds' environmental reputation has been sullied by not telling their customers, until now, that the company's new paper straws cannot be recycled.


McDonalds' didn't tell customers, until now, that the company's new paper straws cannot be recycled

Article written by Brian Shillibeer | Published 05 August 2019


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