McDonald's to scrap plastic straws in United Kingdom and Ireland

McDonald's to scrap plastic straws in United Kingdom and Ireland

The US fast food chain said a majority of its customers supported the move away from plastic. Only 1% are recycled, largely because they are made of a mixture of polypropylene and polystyrene. In May, McDonald's shareholders overwhelmingly rejected a proposal asking the company for a report about the business risks associated with plastic straws.

McDonald's is the latest in a string of high street names in the process of replacing plastic straws with paper or biodegradable ones, including Costa Coffee, Wetherspoons and Pizza Express.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove called it a "significant contribution" to helping the environment, adding that it was "a fine example to other large businesses".

McDonald's also plans to test alternatives to plastic straws in some of its locations in France, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and Australia, as well as in some of its more than 14,000 USA restaurants.

Only about 1% of plastic straws are recycled, and, due to their combination polypropylene-polystyrene makeup, they can take hundreds of years to decompose.

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The European Union moved last month to ban 10 items - including plastic cutlery, straws and cotton swabs - by 2030 in a bid to clean up the oceans.

And more than 60 independent British festivals - including Boardmasters and Bestival - have banned plastic straws as part of a pledge to rid their sites of single-use plastic by 2021. But it could take years to come into effect.

The widening ban on plastic straws comes as United Nations figures show eight million tonnes of plastic - bottles, packaging and other waste - enter the ocean each year, killing marine life and entering the human food chain. She urged Commonwealth countries to commit to the fight against plastic waste at a meeting in London.

It is estimated that the United Kingdom uses 8.5 billion plastic straws a year, according to the Marine Conservation Society.

Some manufacturers have previously argued against the removal of plastic straws because they are needed by some people with disabilities, children and the elderly.

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