The balance — or battle — between convenience and being eco-friendly is heating up.
The controversy arose in a social media firestorm — mainly over complaints that paper straws make milkshakes impossible to drink. In fact, more than 35,000 McDonald’s customers signed a petition asking for a reversal of the chain’s plastic straw ban. Although the British government has since deleted the petition, the controversy remains a popular topic on Twitter.
Social Media Reacts to McDonald’s Paper Straw Petitioners
The failed attempt at petitioning the government to force McDonald’s to switch back to plastic straws has attracted many supporters and critics. On Twitter, both sides have issued passionate, often NSFW statements with many pros and cons about the issue.
On the paper straw side, Twitter users such as @WJNGaming have opined that anyone who signed the petition needs to “suck it up” because “your plastic straw aids in ruining the planet.”
A strongly worded tweet from @GemChurch states that she “Cannot believe there is a petition to bring back paper straws…really? I agree that paper straws are s**t especially for a McDonald’s milkshake but think of how much good it’s already done. Buy a reusable metal straw if you hate them that much!! #SaveOurPlanet.”
Plastic Straw Fans Complain on Twitter
A quick search of Twitter turns up more support for sticking with paper straws than switching back to plastic. However, plastic straw lovers like @parudkin have chided the company’s decision by complaining that “paper straws and milk shakes don’t go together, won’t be coming back.”
Some U.K. McDonald’s customers are asking for plastic straws back for their soft drinks as well. User @mikey_quinn99 tweeted “the new paper straws are horrible, bring back the plastic #coketasteslikepaper.”
An Industry Insider’s Perspective
McDonald’s Paper Straw Petitioners and foes of the current McDonald’s paper straw design can relax. That’s because Mark Varney, who works for paper straw manufacturer Transcend Packaging, stated that customers can expect the new straws to gradually improve. Varney also asked for patience and reason by explaining, “there has to be a compromise in the drinking experience when making a product that is due to last for 30 to 40 minutes after drinking, compared to 150 years.”
The U.S. uses a staggering 500 million plastic straws daily. Studies have found that the majority of single-use, non-biodegradable straws spend much of their 150-year lifespan in the ocean. In other words, the short experience of using a soggy paper straw can make a notable impact on worldwide ocean plastic waste.
The good news is that for most consumers, being eco-friendly and enjoying milkshakes doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. There are several reusable alternatives that people can take with them to McDonald’s. For example, the bendable Koffie Straw provides a durable, long-lasting silicone alternative that turns into 100 percent biodegradable ash when burned.
Other reusable options include straws made out of stainless steel, glass, and bamboo. Those who want the easy convenience of a metal straw with the comfort of something softer can turn to Klean Kanteen’s silicone-tipped stainless steel sets.
Are Plastic Straw Bans a Sign of Harmful Able-ism?
Scrolling through Twitter shows thousands of upset people who want McDonald’s to bring back plastic straws. However, most of these complaints are about a lack of convenience, not an actual necessity.
Meanwhile, many members of the disabled community have tried to spread the message that plastic straw bans present a deadly threat for some humans. Multiple disabilities inhibit people from picking up a drinking cup, and these problems are further exacerbated by swallowing difficulties.
For some disabled individuals, a reusable straw is a good option. But others have physical issues that prevent them from easily maintaining reusable straws, which can lead to contamination. Additionally, metal straws pose a burn risk and paper straws often biodegrade too quickly for those with drinking-related disabilities.
Silicone straws are the only potentially viable option for most affected individuals, but they must have a bendable tip. As previously mentioned, disabled people may also still need help keeping silicone straws properly sanitized.
Florida Moves Against Bans
If Florida Republican lawmakers get their way, it will soon become illegal for any Floridian cities or counties to pass a ban on plastic straws before 2024. Experts expect the bill to pass before the end of the current legislative period. If passed, the ban against plastic straw bans would include a $25,000 fine for any cities that choose to get rid of the straws anyway.
The McDonald’s Plastic Straw Ban: Is the U.S. Next?
McDonald’s locations in the U.K. distribute 1.8 million straws per day to thirsty customers. The popular fast-food restaurant began addressing this issue last year through U.S. paper straw testing in select markets.
Currently, there are several U.S. cities that have banned plastic straws, and McDonald’s has complied in these areas. The U.K. is the first country that the company has adopted a nationwide ban in, though, and the mixed results could potentially delay a full U.S. ban.
Regardless of what McDonald’s chooses to do, many restaurants in the U.S. are moving forward with biodegradable straws, including Starbucks and Wagamama.