McDonald's, switch to biodegradable paper straws!

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As a child who grew up in Michigan, but with family on Florida’s east coast, I spent a lot of summers at the beach. In all the hours I spent in the sun and water, I don’t remember seeing much plastic along the beach or in the water.

That’s all changed. This isn’t the 1980s anymore.

Today, our bodies of water and waterways are littered with debris, and plastic is a major contributor. Plastic straws, as small as they are, make up a shockingly large percentage of the debris. Seas at Risk, in a June 2017 report, detailed the percentage of marine debris made up by various plastics. Plastic straws and stirrers accounted for 6% of the Mediterranean pollution, 1% of Baltic Sea pollution, 3% of the North Atlantic pollution, and 11% of the Black Sea pollution.

 There is no question that plastic straws are convenient. When you’re on the go, drinking in the car, they seem like a necessity. But the reality is that the USA goes through 500 million straws every day. They are too small to be easily recycled and don't biodegrade. "By 2050 oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish (by weight), and the entire plastics industry will consume 20% of total oil production, and 15% of the annual carbon budget."

The convenience of plastic straws doesn’t outweigh the damage they’re doing to our environment, including the people and animals who depend on those waters for life. There are children bathing in debris-polluted waters. Some of the food we eat comes from polluted waters. Is that what we want to put in our bodies? Imagine, instead of it being marine wildlife (that many of us never see firsthand), that it was our cat or dog being forced to live in a similarly polluted environment, where plastic ends up in their digestive systems or prevents them from being able to eat. Is that what we want for Earth’s creatures?

So why pick on McDonald’s? McDonald's is the largest fast food chain by market share, with annual US revenue of over $8.6 billion, and $24.6 billion worldwide. McDonald’s isn’t unfamiliar with making change for a healthier environment. They ditched Styrofoam cups and containers in favor of paper cups and containers.

McDonald’s doing the right thing and switching to paper straws would not only have a tremendous environmental impact, but it would also set the tone for the rest of the fast food market. Instead of waiting for regulations (that are already being enacted in the EU and Seattle, and are pending in NYC and California), McDonald’s should get ahead of everyone else and lead the way toward positive environmental change.