Restaurant chain McDonald’s is reported to have switched from plastic straws at UK and Ireland restaurant locations to paper straws that are not currently recyclable by their waste management provider. “While the materials [in the straws] 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 is reported by CNN to have told the press. “The infrastructure needed to recycle has not kept pace with the emergence of paper straws” and the straws would need to be “collected separately” in order to be recycled using their current processing techniques.

The paper straws were introduced at over 1,300 restaurants in the UK and Ireland following an earlier trial. A leaked internal memo within the company is reported to say that the “paper straws are not yet recyclable and should be disposed of in general waste until further notice.” However, a more recent statement from the company said “we are working with our waste management providers to find a sustainable solution, as we did with paper cups, and so the advice to put paper straws in general waste is therefore temporary.”

The move away from plastic straws and other single-use plastic food packaging items has increased leading up to a new directive in the EU that will ban a set of such items from 2021 (FPF reported). There have also been recent concerns raised about contamination from mineral oils, printing inks, and other chemicals found in paper straws (FPF reported) and paper-based food contact articles (FPF reported).

Read more

Rob Picheta (August 5, 2019). “McDonald’s new paper straws aren’t recyclable — but its axed plastic ones were.” CNN Business

Jordan Davidson (August 6, 2019). “Why McDonald’s New Paper Straws Aren’t Recyclable.” EcoWatch

Nicole Darrah (August 6, 2019). “McDonald’s new paper straws are recyclable, but are not being recycled, company says.” Fox News

Plastic News Europe (August 7, 2019). “McDonald’s paper straws add to problem.”