McDonald's to ditch plastic straws in UK, Ireland

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The global fast-food chain said it will switch to paper straws in all 1,361 of its restaurants in the United Kingdom and Ireland by 2019 and plans to test alternatives to plastic straws in other markets throughout the world later this year.

McDonald's announced Friday that it will test alternatives to plastic straws in some USA restaurants later this year.

The restaurant chain has conducted a trial of the paper replacements at a handful of venues since April, and found customers reacted positively to the change, with the majority supporting the effort to protect the environment.

The burger chain and other fast-food companies are facing increasing pressure from customers and environmental activists to stop using plastic straws because they can end up in the ocean and harm sea turtles, birds and other marine life.

The fast-food industry has always been an issue when it comes to the environment, with waste like foam cups, plastic wrap, boxes and more contributing to trash buildup around the world.

Recycling non-profit Eco-Cycle claims that the U.S. uses 500 million plastic straws every day.

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

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the initiative was "simple but effective" and is a "fine example to other large businesses".

Burger King, Wagamama and JD Wetherspoon have all ditched plastic straws in the past year.

CNNMoney notes that, per trash-mapping app Litterati, plastic straws are the sixth most common type of litter in the world.

Plastic straws enable many disabled people to drink independently, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said. It argued that straws can be recycled together with cartons if they are pushed back into the box.

McDonald's said that plastic straws would still be available "for those that require it", but they will be kept behind the counter.

McDonald's will use two companies to meet their needs, according to RTÉ - Huhtamaki, which has a production plant in Belfast, and Welsh start-up Transcend Packaging.

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