We have been seeing reports about McDonald’s ditching the plastic straw worldwide, but is this really happening? Multiple petition sites have launched campaigns to stop the straw, with the largest petition having close to half a million ocean supporters urging McDonald’s to stop using plastic straws worldwide. While McDonald’s restaurants in the UK are beginning to offer paper straws, the restaurant chain will still provide plastic straws to people who request one.

    As for McDonald’s restaurants in the United States, there is a proposal for a research study that takes into account business risks associated with the use of plastic straws in the U.S. One report informs of a shareholder vote to take place on May 24, in which McDonald’s board of directors is pushing for a no vote because the proposal would take away from other environmental initiatives.

    Why the difference between restaurants in the U.K. and those in the U.S.? Let’s take a look at political factors that might affect decisions that are made at the top of the McDonald’s chain.

    Prime Minister Theresa May publicly recognized that,  “plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world” while urging all 53 member nations to register for the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance. While it has not been deemed law, parliament is considering all single use plastics be banned in their entirety, not just the straw.

    In the United States, we see campaigns to go strawless taking place, especially in coastal communities that are impacted most directly by plastic marine debris. Such movements are important for a cultural shift to take place. Without wide scale social movements, it is far less likely for environmentally supportive policies to take effect. On January 17, a bill was proposed in the State of California to stop restaurants from providing single use plastic straws unless requested by the customer. Malibu City Council has already banned plastic straws, stirrers, and cutlery with similar bans in effect in Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, and Manhattan Beach.

    Such movements and policy changes are imperative for addressing the ocean plastic crisis because 10 to 20 million tons of plastic end up in our One World Ocean every year. This means that 5.25 trillion plastic particles are floating around out there. Negative impacts of plastic marine debris causes an estimated $13 billion loss for related industry.

    The problem has been researched and identified time and time again, but so have solutions. What can you do to make a difference in your own community?

    1. Take part in the Ocean Blue Going Strawless Wave Summer Campaign by committing to stop using single-use plastic straws.
    2. Become a Going Strawless Wave Community Leader urging your favorite restaurants to stop using them too! Contact Karisa at karisa@oceanblueproject.org to become a community leader of this campaign.
    3. Become an office recycling ambassador where you work, which keeps recyclable plastics out of the landfills and prevents things like soda bottles and utensils from making their way to the sea!
    4. Become an Annual Member of Ocean Blue Project! Your support goes directly to impact-oriented activities and events, like Ocean Blue beach cleanups and wildlife enhancement projects.