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McDonald’s shareholders reject bid for report on impact of firm’s plastic straw use

Tom Barnes

McDonald’s shareholders have overwhelmingly rejected proposals calling on the global chain to investigate the impact of plastic straw use by its restaurants.

Less than eight per cent of voters at the company’s annual meeting on Thursday reportedly backed the plans, put forward by campaign group SumOfUs.

The organisation has previously called on McDonald’s to phase out the use of plastic straws in its 36,000 restaurants worldwide due to environmental concerns.

Proposals noted “a growing global consumer movement opposes the use of plastic straws,” urging the fast food giant to show “leadership in the elimination” of such products.

It called on shareholders to demand a report on potential business risks associated with the continued use of plastic straws, as well as details on the company’s plans to provide more sustainable alternatives.

In response, McDonald’s board said the report would be “unnecessary”, adding it was working to find “sustainable alternatives for plastic straws globally”.

SumOfUs, which started a petition last year calling for the firm to ban plastic straws that has since attracted close to half-a-million signatures, said the shareholders’ decision was “not surprising”.

“Since we filed the shareholder proposal and began our petition, McDonald’s has taken some important steps to get in front of this issue," said senior campaigner Sondhya Gupta.

“We hope McDonald’s will continue to take this issue seriously and we look forward to them reporting back on a timeline for instituting these important reforms.”

The company has already announced it will phase out its use of plastic straws at its 1,200 restaurants in the UK, with alternatives already being trialled in some areas of the country.

“We are committed to reducing our environmental impact and we can, and want to, be part of the solution – our straws are already 100 per cent recyclable, but we know more can be done,” said McDonald’s UK chief executive Paul Pomroy.

“That’s why we are currently piloting paper straws in some restaurants.

“Additionally, customers have told us that they want to have to ask for a straw, so we’re acting on that and moving them behind the counter.”

British consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with the issue of single-use plastics after their environmental impact was highlighted in documentaries such as Blue Planet II.

Pub chain JD Wetherspoon removed plastic straws from all of its 900 outlets across the country at the beginning of the year, instead offering biodegradable alternatives.

Costa Coffee said its stores would replace plastic straws with environmentally friendly options during 2018, while chains such as Wagamama and Pret A Manger have also pledged to cut straw usage.

In April, environment secretary Michael Gove announced the government was exploring a total ban on plastic straws and drink stirrers.

The Independent has launched a campaign, Cut the Cup Waste, which aims to reduce the staggering number of non-recyclable coffee cups manufactured and disposed of every year.