Plastic Recycling & McDonald’s Straws

Plastic Packaging Recycling & McDonald's Straws

As the world becomes more aware of the importance of recycling and green solutions, plastics are quickly gaining attention on the global eco stage. Plastic packaging recycling is becoming increasingly important due to the sheer amount of plastic produced for products and packaging. Amidst this global trend however, there is an important lesson to be learned from the fast-food giant, McDonald’s.

You may have heard; there has been some controversy regarding McDonald’s attempt to improve the eco side of their operation with a switch to a “greener” straw option. It was revealed this summer that McDonald’s would be replacing their plastic straws with paper ones, which were supposedly easier to recycle. These straws however, ended up being a failure both functionally, often disintegrating during use for many customers, and for the supposed recycling benefits. McDonald’s previous plastic straws were in fact recyclable yet were replaced by an option that waste management companies could not recycle – meaning the McDonald’s paper/card straws have to be sent to landfill. The Ebbw Vale-based manufacturer of the straws insists that the straws are recyclable and that the fault lies with the UK’s recycling infrastructure. 

The change was originally made by McDonald’s amidst public outrage regarding plastics pollution in our oceans, and while this is a very serious issue that must be addressed, the straw fiasco highlights the importance of a measured and well informed approach to recycling and disposal. A rushed response here has led to incompatibilities between what can be theoretically recycled, what is currently recycled, and what it is possible to recycle with current infrastructure. What is seen as a greener option when dramatically simplified (‘paper is better than plastic’), may not always be the case. Not to mention the poor suitability of the material for the actual function of the product!
What can we learn from this big McDonalds blunder with straws and plastics in general? We should seek to change our perspective on certain products, materials and their uses. We should understand the ‘lifetime’ of our plastics and consider how this may effect our use and disposal of the product. This is especially true of plastic packaging recycling, for example; Not only should we be aware of the disposal process and understand how effectively we can recycle our products but we should also look to maximise the lifetime of our products and whether it is appropriate to treat our packaging as single-use/disposable. For some operations, this is a fairly simple process, however for others, such as businesses dealing with many different chemicals, understanding the most effective and compliant solution can be a severe headache. Working with waste management companies is therefore becoming increasingly important in order to achieve a solution fit for each specific operation.

Packaging Reuse help create bespoke solutions, tailored to your operations needs and goals. Our on-site chemist will evaluate your businesses needs, helping cut costs where possible and ensuring your compliance keeping you effective and legal from a packaging perspective.