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McDonald's admits new paper straws — which took the place of plastic straws — aren't recyclable

Photo by Andrew Aitchison / In pictures via Getty Images

A spokesperson for McDonald's has said that its new paper straws, which were rolled out in United Kingdom and Ireland stores in 2018 to help the environment, are not recyclable.

A worldwide push to eradicate plastic straws came in 2018 on the heels of several studies showing that plastic straws injure sea life and its habitat.

The company's former plastic straws were 100 percent recyclable.

What are the details?

News of the recycling problem came after U.K. newspaper The Sun published an internal memo from the company that encouraged employees to simply dispose of the paper straws with the general food waste and avoid attempting to recycle them.

"While the materials are recyclable, their current thickness makes it difficult for them to be processed by our waste solution providers, who also help us recycle our paper cups," a spokesperson for the company told the U.K.'s Press Association, according to CNN.

Another spokesperson told Business Insider that the problem is "a wider industry issue, as the infrastructure needed to recycle has not kept pace with the emergence of paper straws."

Additionally, Fox News reported that the company is finding it difficult to strike an eco-friendly balance with the new paper straws.

"We have moved quickly to paper straws — balancing the more positive impact they have on the environment with finding a straw which meets customer expectations," the spokesperson told the network. "Whilst the materials the straws are made from are recyclable they cannot currently be processed by waste solution providers and local authorities unless collected separately."

The spokesperson added, however, that restaurant waste doesn't go to the landfill.

"We are working with our waste management providers to find a sustainable solution, as we did with paper cups, and so the advice to put paper straws in general waste is therefore temporary," the company's statement added. "This waste from our restaurants does not go to landfill but is used to generate energy."

Anything else?

In 2018, former British Prime Minister Theresa May announced a "national plan of action" — an initiative that would prohibit the use and manufacture of single-use plastics entirely by 2042.

May added, "Plastic waste is one of the greatest environment challenges facing the world, which is why protecting the marine environment is central to our agenda. ... We are rallying Commonwealth countries to join the fight against marine plastic."

May insisted that the government had plans in effect to "work with industry to develop alternatives and ensure there is sufficient time to adapt."

The U.K. isn't the only one hopping on the single-use plastics ban.

A 2018 California bill prohibiting restaurant staff from handing out plastic straws to customers unless specifically requested was signed into law.

One last thing…
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