If the company is doing it already in the United Kingdom, then why not in the States, too?
Nearly a half-million Americans want McDonald’s to ditch plastic straws. A petition started by global advocacy group SumOfUs is calling on the fast food giant to conduct a study that would examine the ‘business risks’ associated with continued use of plastic straws, “arguing that their continued use could cost McDonald’s environmentally aware customers.” The study would also assess potential substitutes for plastic straws.
McDonald’s is not happy with the petition. The board of directors opposes the proposal, claiming that it could undermine other efforts that the company has taken toward great sustainability. There is a meeting scheduled for May 24 to discuss the proposal, but the board has already made its stance clear, telling shareholders:
“The requested report is unnecessary, redundant to our current practices and initiatives, and has the potential for a diversion of resources with no corresponding benefit to the company, our customers, and our shareholders, particularly in light of our ongoing packaging sustainability efforts.”
No doubt a great number of people would disagree with McDonald’s odd assumption that one can have too much sustainability. Indeed, plastic straws are slowly but surely acquiring a nasty reputation, and it’s not a stretch to imagine that their use will be looked down upon in a number of years.
McDonald’s in the United Kingdom has already taken a stance against plastic straws, which is why the American resistance seems out of place. Starting in May, British customers will have to request straws specially, and they may be given compostable straws, depending on the location. It’s a big move for a big company, so it’s likely only a matter of time until it’s adopted more broadly. Until then, though, it looks like the U.S. franchises are poised for a fight.
The one thing I’d question about the SumOfUs petition is the notion that the presence of plastic straws would deter environmentally-minded customers from eating at McDonald’s. I’d argue that there are other major environmental issues that turn people away from McDonald’s — namely, the industrial production of beef for hamburgers. Banning straws wouldn’t instantly result in greater numbers of customers, but it would mean millions of straws not ending up in the ocean every day, which is enough to soften (just a little) even the fiercest fast food opponents.