McDonald's to phase out plastic straws across UK and Ireland

Eight million metric tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean every year

McDonald's, waiters, table service, Ireland, self-order kiosks

Nick Ansell / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Fast food giant McDonald's is getting rid of plastic straws from its UK and Ireland restaurants - and replacing them with paper ones.

The chain will start rolling out the paper straws in all of its 1,361 outlets in the UK and Ireland from September.

The restaurant chain currently uses 1.8 million straws a day in the UK alone.

Some eight million metric tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean every year – with catastrophic environmental consequences.

Plastic makes up 95% of the pollution that is found in the oceans.

Plastic waste is seen on the north coast of Jakarta 15-03-2018. Image: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images

The Environment Minister Denis Naughten has welcomed the McDonald’s announcement, calling it a "move in the right direction" to eliminate single use plastics.

Mindy O'Brien from Irish environmental group VOICE said big multi-national companies have a responsibility to take “not just this step but many steps” to reduce single-use plastics.

She said she hopes more big businesses will follow in McDonald’s footsteps.

“We really need to move away from single use plastics,” she said.

“We have all seen the pictures of the turtle with the straw up its nose or birds wrapped up in plastic or cotton buds – so I think this is a great first step and long may it continue.

“I hope that others will follow suit.”

McDonald's new paper straws. Image: McDonald's

The moves comes after the EU proposed an outright ban on plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons across the bloc.

The plan would force companies to charge customers for any single-use plastic cups and, straws or food containers.

Member states would also be obliged to collect 90% of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025.

The British Government has also proposed a ban on single-use plastic straws and cotton buds.


“McDonald’s is committed to using our scale for good and working to find sustainable solutions for plastic straws globally,” said Francesca DeBiase Executive Vice President, Global Supply Chain and Sustainability.

The company has pledged to manufacture the new paper straws from certified sustainable sources.

McDonalds is also testing alternatives to plastic straws in Belgium, with trials due to begin in selected restaurants in the US, France, Sweden, Norway and Australia. 

In parts of Latin America and Malaysia, the company plans to offer straws on request only.

McDonald’s major global competitor Burger King has already pledged to introduce non-plastic straws in the UK by September.