McDonald’s paper straw turnaround

Materials World magazine
13 Aug 2019

The paper straws McDonald’s branded as eco-friendly in the move away from plastic can not be recycled. Idha Valeur reports.

McDonald’s paper straws have sparked many a debate and have even prompted a petition intended to force the company to bring back its old plastic straws. After the poorly received switch, it was recently revealed that the McDonald’s paper straws are not recyclable and are being incinerated. 

Last year the fast-food chain announced its decision to replace the recyclable plastic straws in every UK branch with a paper-based alternative the company claimed was part of a shift to improve sustainability. 

The company has responded to criticism and according to recent information from McDonald's, the material used to manufacture the paper straws is not the problem, as it is recyclable. However, it is the straw thickness that is causing trouble. 

The paper straws were first brought into use in McDonald’s branches around a year ago and initially received a great deal of negative feedback from customers, due to how easily they dissolve in drinks over time and the fibrous mouthfeel. To tackle this and get customers onboard, the company increased the thickness to help improve durability.  

‘As a result of customer feedback, we have strengthened our paper straws, so 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 said, as reported by the BBC. 

As of now, the fast-food company recommends throwing its used paper straws in the general waste bin, rather than recycling them while they seek out a more permanent solution to the problem. 

In the meantime, the petition to bring back plastic straws has been signed by 51,000 people so far.