McDonald's will sell paper straws in every restaurant in the UK

A McDonald's Big Mac meal

A McDonald's Big Mac meal

"The government's ambitious plans, combined with strong customer opinion, has helped to accelerate the move away from plastic and I'm proud that we've been able to play our part", said Paul Pomroy, chief executive of McDonald's United Kingdom and Ireland.

McDonald's announced Friday that it would start testing an alternative to plastic straws in some of its US restaurants, and would completely phase out the products in some of its European locations. Those locations now use 1.8 million plastic straws per day.

Because of its massive size, the global hamburger chain can effect significant change in the supply chain, as it did when it announced it would use eggs only from cage-free hens.

A straw, which is used for only 20 minutes on average, can take more than 200 years to break down into smaller pieces and often does not fully disintegrate.

"We all have a responsibility to our environment and this simple yet effective initiative is a fine example to other large businesses", he said.

SeaWorld, Ikea and Royal Caribbean have already vowed to stop using plastic straws and bags. The straw switchover will start in September and be fully in place by 2019.

The Sum of Us petition calling for the change had warned that many plastic straws ended up polluting the ocean, harming seabirds and marine life.

Plastic straws enable many disabled people to drink independently, according to Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.

The fast-food giant joins a list of nightclubs and restaurant venues - including Pizza Express, pub chain Wetherspoons, and supermarket Waitrose - which have pledged to dump plastic straws for bio-degradable alternatives.

It argues that straws can be recycled together with cartons if they are pushed back into the box.

The new straws will use paper coming from certified sustainable sources, the company said.

McDonald's said it had found two suppliers to meet its needs for paper straws - a global company called Huhtamaki which has a production plant in Belfast, and Welsh start-up Transcend Packaging.

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