News of McDonald's straw ban vote comes less than two months after McDonald's United Kingdom's communications team announced its plans to test paper straws at U.K. locations via Twitter. Though U.K. locations did not do away with plastic straws entirely — "recyclable" plastic straws are still available upon request — this was a clear first move toward a more eco-friendly policy.
McDonald's locations everywhere could soon follow the U.K. branch's lead, depending on how the shareholders vote tomorrow. However, there is reason to believe they will not vote in favor of doing away with plastic straws. According to Orange County Register, "McDonald’s board of directors is opposing the proposal, saying it could unnecessarily divert money from other efforts by the mega-chain to become more environmentally friendly." This funding concern seems somewhat ridiculous given that McDonald's is a $106.4 billion dollar corporation.
We reached out to McDonald's for a response to these claims about its board, and a representative told us, "We do not comment on shareholder proposals." The rep also provided the following statement: "We continue to work to find a more sustainable solution for plastic straws globally and are currently assessing and testing various alternatives to plastic straws in several markets to ensure that high customer experience standards are maintained. These actions are part of our broader efforts to source 100% of packaging from renewable, recycled, or certified sources by 2025 and to have guest packaging recycling in all restaurants. Learn more about Scale for Good and our Packaging and Recycling goals here."
Even if the McDonald's shareholders ultimately decide against phasing out plastic straws, the fact that this issue is even being voted on reflects the current climate for food companies. According to Kara Nielsen, vice president of trends and marketing at CCD Innovation, a food and beverage product development and strategic marketing agency, "We now live in a food world where values count. Even for companies that were perhaps less inclined to think about sustainability or eco-consciousness or food waste, it’s pretty hard for a company of any size to not address some of these issues and just say what they’re going to say... This is a real reaction to consumer demand."