By Katherine Pennington
LONDON, March 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - McDonald's on Wednesday became the latest big company in Britain to say it was the last straw for plastic - with plans to start using drinking straws made from paper.
The move comes after estimates that 8.5 billion straws are used in Britain every year – or more than 23 million a day – which is contributing to the death of marine animals, according to the Marine Conservation Society.
The fast-food giant joins a list of nightclubs and restaurant venues - including Pizza Express, pub chain Wetherspoons, and supermarket Waitrose - which have pledged to dump plastic straws for bio-degradable alternatives.
"The reduction and use of plastics is an hugely important issue – for our business, for the sector and for society," Paul Pomroy, chief executive of McDonald's UK, said in a statement.
He said McDonald's only currently used recyclable straws but would pilot paper straws in some restaurants from May and keep them behind the counter, giving customers the choice of whether or not to have a straw.
The widening ban on plastic straws comes as United Nations figures show eight million tonnes of plastic - bottles, packaging and other waste - enter the ocean each year, killing marine life and entering the human food chain.
Scientists have urged tougher restrictions on plastic waste. In December, almost 200 nations agreed to limit plastic pollution of the oceans, warning it could outweigh fish by 2030.
The Marine Conservation Society said about 70 percent of litter on beaches was made of plastic with items such as straws, cups and stirrers making up over 20 percent of the litter.
"We really want to see all plastic straws being removed from all the fast food chains ... customers clearly do not choose to recycle convenience packaging," Emma Cunningham, a campaign officer at the Marine Conservation Society, said in a statement.
As well as changes to packaging, the British government unveiled plans this week to introduce a deposit return scheme later this year by which people get a 10 pence refund for plastic and glass bottles and aluminium cans.
(Reporting by Katherine Pennington, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith @BeeGoldsmith )
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