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Milkshakes, Thick Shakes and soft drinks will be slurped through paper straws at McDonalds very soon, because the fast food chain has just announced they are ditching the plastic straw!

McDonald’s Australia has committed to phasing out plastic straws by 2020, instead opting for alternatives made out of biodegradable paper.

The environmentally friendly paper alternative will be trialed in two stores from August before being initiated in all 970 stores around the nation.

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“As one of the world’s largest restaurant businesses, we know we have the responsibility and opportunity to make significant change,” McDonald’s Australia supply chain director Robert Sexton said. “Together with the global business, we have been working for some time to find appropriate alternatives. We know plastic straws is a topic our customers are passionate about and we will find a viable solution.”

Ditching the single use plastic straw is the latest development in the restaurant's nationwide environmental campaign.

In April, McDonald’s Australia trialed recycling cups by introducing separate waste bins for liquids, plastics, cups, and general waste.

“Beverage cups are a unique concern when it comes to recycling through normal paper recycling facilities due to the inner plastic lining,” Sexton revealed. “By separating the cups through designated bins we can ensure cups are diverted to the right facility to recycle this material. Our trials will provide useful learnings that will help to determine next steps for potential wider restaurant implementation.”

Greenpeace Australia have praised the decision to shift to paper straws as “a step in the right direction”, but have also called for McDonalds to increase efforts to remove all single use plastic from its restaurants.

"McDonald's move to phase out plastic straws is a great first step. We'd love to see them really making efforts to decrease all their single use plastics," Greenpeace campaigner Zoe Deans said. "Greenpeace overall would like to see an end to all single use plastics. It's just a huge problem. Not only does it end up harming our wildlife but it ends up as microplastics in our oceans that get into our food chain, and ultimately affects human health as well."

Australians use more than 10 million plastic straws every day; totalling 3.5 billion a year. Due to straws being made of polypropylene and polystyrene, they can take hundreds of years to decompose if they aren’t recycled properly. During an episode of the ABC’s War on Waste program, host Craig Reucassel believed McDonald’s straw ban could significantly reduce Australia overall plastic straw impact.

"We couldn't get exact figures out of McDonald's but they have about a million customers a day, so even if half of those are taking a straw, we're talking about 180 million straws a year, so it's a large part of the straw footprint," he said.

The lack of flexibility and durability offered by paper straws has drawn criticism from disability rights groups, which claim people with conditions like cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis rely on the sturdiness of plastic straws to eat and drink.

Paul Harvey, an environmental scientist at Macquarie University, believes paper straws do not measure up in convenience or safety and that removing all plastic straws from McDonald's restaurants could prevent people in need from accessing a basic medical aid.

“We need to ensure that we have the right strategy to accommodate those who still depend on single use plastics,” he stated. “This would include thinking seriously and developing single use products that have a reduced environmental effect and can be used in these applications.”

McDonald’s Australia's move is the latest in a global campaign to recognise environmentally friendly alternatives to single use plastics and packaging in all McDonald's restaurants. The company intends to have all guest packaging sourced from recycled, renewable, or certified sources by 2025.

In June, Mcdonald's banned plastic straws in all 1,361 of its restaurants across the UK and Ireland. In an effort to  drive packaging innovation and reduce waste, McDonald’s in the United States have committed $10 million to launch an initiative with Starbucks and Closed Loop which aims at developing a compostable or recyclable cup solution.

Sustainable McDonald’s packaging efforts have also begun in Belgium and are planned for Norway, France and Sweden later in 2018, the company announced in June.

Global efforts to reduce single use plastic have grown significantly over the past few years. In June, Australian supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles phased out the existence of single use plastic bags from their stores. Worldwide, American Airlines, Adidas, and Coca-Cola are among just some major businesses which have pledged to significantly cut their plastic use.


Defend the Planet

McDonald's Is Ditching Plastic Straws in All of Its Australian Restaurants

By Madeleine Keck