By Barry Eitel
Fast food chain McDonald’s announced Friday that it would begin testing alternatives to its plastic drinking straws later this year in the United States.
The chain said it would transition all 1,361 of its restaurants in the United Kingdom and Ireland to recyclable paper straws, which have already been tested in the region. The move toward the new straws in the region will begin in September and finish by the beginning of 2019.
McDonald’s has been under fire for its use of plastic on such a large, global scale. Earlier in the year, the chain announced that it planned to source 100 percent of its packaging from renewable or recycled sources by 2025. During the same timeframe, the company wants to have every McDonald’s location on earth capable of recycling used packaging, too.
“McDonald’s is committed to using our scale for good and working to find sustainable solutions for plastic straws globally,” Francesca DeBiase, McDonald’s executive vice president of global supply chain and sustainability, said in a statement.
“In addition to the exciting news from the UK today, we are testing straw alternatives in other countries to provide the best experience for our customers. We hope this work will support industry wide change and bring sustainable solutions to scale.”
Along with the U.S., straw alternatives will be tested in France, Sweden, Norway and Australia. McDonald’s said it would try a different tactic in other markets, like Malaysia, by only offering a straw if a customer requests it.
Shares of McDonald’s dipped slightly Friday amid the news and closed the week at $166.46, just under Thursday’s close.
McDonald’s has some 37,000 locations in over 100 countries. Environmental activists estimate that millions of plastic straws are used by McDonald’s customers every day and are quickly discarded. On Friday, Greenpeace UK called on McDonald’s to ditch plastic straws worldwide immediately as well as all unnecessary plastic.
“This is a positive step from McDonalds, but stronger action is needed,” the group said on Twitter.