McDonald's use paper straws?

The fast food giant's paper straws are currently unrecyclable

Independent

Opinion: The inconvenient truth behind McDonald's 'eco friendly' straws

Reduce, reuse, recycle. The three Rs: those words were drummed into our heads in primary school, we listened to the television ads singing those words to us. And yet, today, we're still part of a throwaway society.

Disposable items rule all - be it nappies, food containers or, the greatest con of all, bottled water. Businesses know that as consumers we want everything easy, simplified and often "to go", but they know we want to assuage our guilt too. We know we're behaving destructively and we want to feel better about it.

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The last straw? Should McDonald's use paper straws?

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

When McDonald's switched from plastic to paper straws, there were calls for the fast food giant to reverse their decision.

An online petition calling for the return of the plastic ones received over 50,000 signatures.

The controversy continues for McDonald's. While the paper straws were introduced to be more green, they are actually unrecyclable.

The company has been accused of "green washing".

The Claim

Despite being unrecyclable, McDonald's paper straws are still better for the environment than plastic ones, Metro reports.

The fast food giant said that the paper straws are made from recyclable materials. However, they currently cannot be processed by recycling plants.

A spokesperson for McDonald's said that they are finding a solution, adding that putting the paper straws in general waste is "temporary".

They said: "Whilst the materials the [paper] straws are made from are recyclable, they cannot currently be processed by waste solution providers or local authorities unless collected separately.

"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 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."

Metro add that the paper straws can be composted. The paper straws break down in water - and if they end up in the ocean, the straws will dissolve in a matter of days.

The Counterclaim

However, the Independent's Sarah Arnold accuses the fast food chain of "yet another corporate green wash".

She says that we are aware that we are behaving destructively, and we want to change things. Enter companies that are green washing, which Arnold defines as "making misleading claims about the environmental benefits of a product or service".

She argues: "But what if these organisations looked at the actual problem, rather than their reputation, first and found more radical ways of reducing their carbon footprint.

"The fast food industry isn't going to introduce plates and cutlery any time soon, but companies such as McDonald's can make their takeaway packaging compostable.

"What would be really radical would be finding ways to compost that waste on site."

Arnold concludes: "We must force companies to halt green washing and bring in changes that use fewer of the planet’s dwindling resources – and do it as soon as is possible."

The Facts

McDonald's switched from single-use plastic to paper straws in all of its 1,361 UK branches in September last year. The fast food chain uses 1.8 million straws a day in their UK branches.

According to BBC's Reality Check, nobody knows exactly how many straws are used in the UK each year. Figures vary from 4.7 billion to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' estimation of 8.5 billion.

If the latter is true, it is the equivalent of about 130 straws for everybody in the UK every year.

Despite the vast amounts of straws in circulation, they make up just 0.025 per cent of total plastic waste in the ocean.

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Metro

McDonald's 'unrecyclable' straws still better for the environment than plastic

McDonald's controversial change from plastic to paper straws may actually still be the environmentally friendly choice, despite the fact the paper straws cannot currently be recycled.

The fast food outlet made the shift from single-use plastic to paper straws in all 1,361 branches in an effort to reduce its impact on the environment.

However McDonald's was widely criticised after it was revealed that the new straws can't currently be recycled.

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