Australians will soon be slurping McDonald’s thick shakes with paper straws after the global fast-food chain announced it will phase out plastic straws.
McDonald’s will begin trialling paper straws at two of its Australian stores from August, ahead of a nationwide rollout by 2020 across all 970 stores.
The paper straws will be the same as those trialled in the United Kingdom since May.
Australians use about 10 million straws every day, equivalent to 3.5 billion a year, according to environmental groups.
Leading Australian retail expert Dr Gary Mortimer said he believes this is “just the beginning”.
“From plastic bags, to straws, unnecessary packaging, and sustainable fashion … I think the conversation retailers are now having with their customers is more around going ‘green’,” he told The New Daily.
“Woolworths and Coles have committed to eventually getting rid of plastic straws and there is a global movement towards retail supporting a ‘greener’ environment.
Clearly there’s a cost saving here for the business. But it’s a win-win for the business and the environment.”
Dr Mortimer said that like single-use plastic bags, consumers took straws for granted.
“We didn’t realise the volume of waste going into the environment. We’re talking in the billions – not millions – of plastic straws,” he said.
“Every time you buy a sundae or soft drink, there’s a straw in it.
“We’ve already seen a movement away from plastic-lined coffee cups. I think the next one will be plastic clothes hangers, and the barrier bags in supermarket delis and vegetable aisles.”
Greenpeace Australia welcomed the move away from plastic.
“It’s wonderful McDonald’s is making a commitment to reducing consumption of single-use plastic and we look forward to seeing more detail around this proposal to see the overall impact,” Greenpeace’s Simon Black told AAP.
ABC reported that its new War on Waste program features a segment at a McDonald’s store where the show’s host Craig Reucassel confronts the restaurant chain with a sea turtle sculpture made of plastic straws, dubbed “McChokey”.
Mr Reucassel suggests that McChokey would make a more appropriate mascot than Grimace or the Hamburglar.
He said McDonald’s announcement was “a happy coincidence”.
Robert Sexton, McDonald’s Australia’s supply chain director, said the trial is part of a larger, global effort to identify viable, sustainable alternatives to for its packaging and singe-use plastic straws.
“As one of the world’s largest restaurant businesses, we know we have the responsibility and opportunity to make significant change,” he said in a statement.
“We know plastic straws is a topic our customers are passionate about and we will find a viable solution.”
Global movement away from plastic
Hotel chain Marriot revealed plans on Thursday to remove all plastic straws and plastic drink stirrers from its hotels by July next year.
These announcements follow Starbucks’ decision last week to eliminate plastic straws globally from its stores within two years, citing the environmental threat to oceans.
The Splendour in the Grass music festival also said it planned to phase out plastic straws and single-use plastic bottles over three years.