An estimated 500 million plastic straws are used every day in the U.S. --that's more than the number of people living in this country by nearly 200 million.
The plastic straw has become the most recent poster product for ocean protection; plastic straws are among the top pieces of plastic debris polluting beaches and endangering marine life. Now, McDonald's, the world's largest fast-food chain, says it will begin transitioning away from plastic to paper straws in U.S., U.K., and Ireland restaurants later this year, with plans to move to France, Sweden, and Norway before stretching the shift further across the globe.
"You asked, we listened. Paper straws will be rolling out to all UK restaurants from this September!" the fast-food giant announced on Twitter this morning.
The company hasn't announced what the replacement straw will be made of, but representatives for McDonald's called it a "sustainable solution."
The move comes as a number of cities have begun taking measures to ban single-use plastic straws in an effort to decrease plastic ocean pollution. Several restaurant chains have already begun phasing them out or offering them only on demand. But fast-food chains like McDonald's face significant challenges in eliminating straws. Many rely on soda fountains which fill plastic cups with lids made for straws.
Experts recently warned that there will be more plastic in the ocean than marine life by 2050; already several giant regions of the ocean -- think twice the size of Texas -- are virtual floating plastic islands collecting tons and tons of debris. Animals eat the plastic, which can kill them or move up the food chain to fish consumed by humans. It also leaches chemicals into the water and into the animals, including humans, who ingest the plastic. Chemicals in certain plastics like BPA (bisphenol-A) are known endocrine disruptors, linked to a number of health issues including metabolic and hormonal disorders.
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