Belfast Telegraph

McDonald's dumps unrecyclable Northern Ireland-made eco straws

Move: McDonald’s straw
Move: McDonald’s straw
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

McDonald's is binning eco-friendly paper straws produced in Northern Ireland as they cannot be recycled.

The fast food giant switched from plastic to paper straws last year in an effort to reduce single-use plastic products.

But the paper straws were hugely unpopular, with customers saying they turned to mush as they drank their beverage.

They were then strengthened to combat the problem.

However, while the materials used in the straws are recyclable, their current thickness has made it difficult for them to be processed by McDonald's waste solution providers, a spokesperson for the company explained.

According to an internal memo, the straws must now be binned or burned while a solution is found.

McDonald's chief financial officer for the UK and Ireland John Park opened global packaging company Huhtamaki's new Antrim base in Kilbegs Business Park in May.

The facility was the first in Ireland to produce high quality sustainable paper straws.

Huhtamaki had previously announced a global investment in its paper straw capacity within its food service business segment, starting in Northern Ireland.

The Belfast Telegraph asked Huhtamaki for a comment about the problems with recycling its paper straws, however, McDonald's said it was "best placed" to speak on the issue.

The McDonald's spokesperson said: "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.

"Whilst the materials the straws are made from are recyclable, they cannot currently be processed by waste solution providers or local authorities unless collected separately.

"This is a wider industry issue, as the infrastructure needed to recycle has not kept pace with the emergence of paper straws.

"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.

"This waste from our restaurants does not go to landfill but is used to generate energy."

The spokesperson added that McDonald's is boosting training and education in its restaurants to increase its recycling rates and also to encourage customers to recycle.

"Over the past few years, the number of items we recycle has increased in line with our volume growth, in particular we have seen an increase in cups recycled - with 40m recycled last year; however we recognise this is something we need to continue to focus on," they said.

Huhtamaki's Antrim facility created 100 new jobs and was supported by funding from Invest NI of £480,000.

Speaking at the time of the launch, Ciaran Doherty, general manager of Huhtamaki Food Services Belfast, said: "We value McDonald's trust in us and today celebrate another landmark in a relationship that now spans 30 years.

"Our sustainably sourced paper straws are made with new, purpose-built machinery to deliver a premium product with 100% of paper used in all straws and wrapping."

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