Technology & Science

McDonald's to switch to paper straws in U.K., Ireland

McDonald's said Friday it will switch to paper straws at all its locations in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and test an alternative to plastic ones in some of its U.S. restaurants later this year.

McDonald's Canada will monitor market tests

McDonald's plans to switch to paper straws in the United Kingdom, and Ireland and test another 'sustainable' alternative in the U.S. McDonald's Canada said it will monitor the markets before making any decisions. (Neil Hall/Reuters)

McDonald's said Friday it will switch to paper straws at all its locations in the United Kingdom and Ireland and test an alternative to plastic ones in some of its U.S. restaurants later this year.

The burger chain and other fast-food companies are facing increasing pressure from customers and environmental activists to stop using plastic straws because they can end up in the ocean and harm sea turtles, birds and other marine life. Paper straws, unlike plastic ones, disintegrate in the environment.

McDonald's Corp. declined to say what type of straw it would test in the U.S., only saying that it would be a "sustainable solution." It has more than 14,000 U.S. restaurants, compared to about 1,360 in the U.K. and Ireland.

The company will begin to phase out plastic straws at its restaurants in the U.K. and Ireland in September, and complete the change next year. British officials will launch a public consultation for a potential bill banning the sale of the single-use plastics later this year.

It also plans to test alternatives to plastic straws in its restaurants in France, Sweden and Norway.

Environmental activists welcomed the move. Louise Edge, a campaigner with Greenpeace U.K., said it was a small move that anticipates a potential government ban, "but the scale of the fast food giant means this move will have impact."

In Canada, McDonald's said it planned to monitor the market tests to understand the impact the changes may have before making any specific decisions.

Last week, rival burger chain A&W Food Services of Canada Inc., said it would eliminate all plastic straws from its restaurants by the end of this year.