Plastic drinking straws may seem small, but they end up being a huge problem when it comes to the environment. Because they are small and lightweight, they are difficult to recycle. The problem is worsened by the reality that they are everywhere. You cannot buy a cold drink on the go without getting a straw. And in most casual dining restaurants, you’re still given a straw with your glass of water, iced tea, or soda.
Slowly, some companies are making plans to eliminate drinking straws completely from their business model. They are, after all, not really necessary. It is completely possible to drink something without sucking it through a straw.
Perhaps the biggest company thus far to consider removing plastic straws from its restaurants is McDonald’s. According to USA Today, a “proposal being presented to McDonald’s shareholders at their annual meeting Thursday asks that the chain find alternatives to plastic straws at its more than 36,000 restaurants worldwide.” If the vote is successful, it will mean that literally millions of straws will be eliminated on a daily basis—because that is how many the restaurant chain hands out every single day.
A recent initiative put in place by McDonald’s has the company using renewable or recycled sources for all of its customer packaging by 2025. (Currently, they’re at about 50 percent.) The company’s UK arm is already planning on removing plastic straws from certain restaurants as a test, and will instead use paper straws.
In 2014 alone, the U.S. “produced 258 million tons of municipal solid waste,” according to information from the Environmental Protection Agency. This is up from the 88 million tons we produced in 1960. Eliminating one-time use plastic straws will be a positive step in the right direction.