McDonald’s Shareholders Vote to Keep Plastic Straws, Despite Activist Demands

McDonald’s shareholders rejected a proposal to phase out plastic straws, according to the Associated Press, marking a setback for environmentalists who had hoped to reduce the amount of waste produced by the fast-food giant.

Fewer than 8% voted in favor of the proposal, according to the BBC. The proposal put forth by a minor shareholder asked for a report on the “business risks” of keeping plastic straws, according to a SEC filing, and asked the company “to develop and implement substitutes for plastic straws in its restaurants.”

“The requested report is unnecessary, redundant to our current practices and initiatives, and has the potential for a diversion of resources with no corresponding benefit to the company, our customers, and our shareholders,” the board said, according to the BBC.

The result was in line with McDonald’s board, which had urged shareholders to vote against the proposal, according to the SEC filing.

“We continue to work to find a more sustainable solution for plastic straws globally,” the company said in a statement to USA Today before the vote. “In the meantime, we have adopted compostable straws in certain markets to meet regulations while we work with packaging experts to develop a planet-friendly, cost-effective answer for all McDonald’s restaurants.”

Global consumer watchdog group SumOfUs, which backed the shareholder proposal, collected nearly 500,000 signatures asking McDonald’s to phase out plastic straws due to environmental concerns.

“McDonald’s uses millions of plastic straws every single day,” the petition reads. “Used for just a few seconds, then thrown away, many end up polluting our oceans.” Americans use roughly 500 million plastic straws per day, and plastic straws are in the top five trash items found at beaches, according to reports.

In March, McDonald’s in the U.K. pledged to work to eliminate plastic straws by requiring customers to ask for straws if they need them, and phasing in biodegradable straws.

U.S. cities including Seattle, Miami Beach and Malibu, Calif. have already moved to ban plastic straws.

The company as a whole has pledged to make its packaging more sustainable by 2025.

In a statement the company said: “We continue to work to find a more sustainable solution for plastic straws globally and are currently assessing and testing various alternatives to plastic straws in markets like the U.K. and Belgium to ensure that high customer experience standards are maintained. These actions are part of our broader efforts to source 100% of packaging from renewable, recycled, or certified sources by 2025 and to have guest packaging recycling in all restaurants. Learn more about Scale for Good and our Packaging and Recycling goals here.”

In statement, Sondhya Gupta, senior campaigner at SumOfUs, said: “Today’s shareholder vote 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 – including phasing out plastic straws in the UK. 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.”

Update: This article was updated from the original statements from SumOfUs and McDonald’s

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