As we reported in 2018, McDonald's decission to replace plastic straws with a paper equivalent was made on the back of mounting consumer pressure, largely following the Blue Planet series on BBC television, which documented plastic pollution of the natural environment. The reason for the change was not due to poor recyclability of plastic straws, but was simply to replace single use plastics with an alternative product made from renewable resources, which will degrade in the natural environment should the straw not be disposed of correctly. Unfortunately there has been a backlash over reports that the new straws are not recyclable 'due to their thickness' which is obviously erroneous, but which if not corrected could cause significant damage to the reputation of this paper product. We can state with confidence that 'thickness' is certainly not an issue as regards recycling of these products; contamination with food residues, adequate collection of straws in high enough volume, and optimisation of repulping and screening are more likely to be issues. However, it should also be remembered that the reason for the change was never stated as due to 'recycling' issues, but rather for protection of the environment in the event of littering. What follows is the report from the BBC Business website; links at the bottom are made to other news sources.
McDonald's new paper straws - described as "eco-friendly" by the US fast food giant - cannot be recycled.
Last year, it axed plastic straws, even though they were recyclable, in all its UK branches as part of a green drive. But the US fast food giant says the new paper straws are not yet easy to recycle and should be put into general waste.
McDonald's says the materials are recyclable, but their thickness makes it difficult for them to be processed.
The firm switched from plastic straws to paper ones in its restaurants in the UK and Republic of Ireland last autumn.
The straws are manufactured by Transcend Packaging, based in Ebbw Vale, south Wales.
But some customers were unhappy with the new straws, saying they dissolved before a drink could be finished, with milkshakes particularly hard to drink.
"As a result of customer feedback, we have strengthened our paper straws, so while the materials are recyclable, their current thickness makes it difficult for them to be processed by our waste solution providers, who also help us recycle our paper cups," a McDonald's spokesman said.
The firm said it was working to find a solution, and that current advice, as first reported by The Sun, to put paper straws in general waste was therefore temporary.
"This waste from our restaurants does not go to landfill, but is used to generate energy," the company added.
A petition by irate McDonald's customers to bring back plastic straws has so far been signed by 51,000 people.
The restaurant chain uses 1.8 million straws a day in the UK, so the move to paper was a significant step in helping to reduce single-use plastic.
Some single-use plastic products can take hundreds of years to decompose if not recycled.
This McDonald's move to paper straws followed a successful trial in selected restaurants earlier in 2018.
In April 2018, the UK government proposed a ban on plastic straws and cotton buds in England.
Most straws are made from plastics such as polypropylene and polystyrene, which unless recycled, take hundreds of years to decompose.
Friends of the Earth's Julian Kirby said: "For too long the debate has been stuck on recycling and how to deal with waste once it is created. We should be thinking about how to avoid waste creation.
"Lips have been a waste-free alternative to straws for millions of years."
The above comes frm the BBC website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49234054 but similar stories can be found elsewhere, for instance:
Daily Mirror; Daily Telegraph; The Sun; and CNN.