McDonald’s Shareholders Demand Fast-Food Giant Rethink Plastic Straws at Annual Meeting

May 24, 2018

Following McDonald’s Decision to Phase Out Plastic Straws in the UK, Shareholders Demand Report on Risk Associated With Continued Plastic Straw Use, and Efforts to Replace Plastic Straws

ILLINOIS -- At the annual general meeting of McDonald’s shareholders on Thursday, May 24th, Dr. Elaine Leung, a marine biologist will present a shareholder resolution requesting that the fast-food giant issue a report to shareholders on the business risks associated with its continued use of plastic straws and on the company’s effort to develop and implement substitutes for plastic straws in its restaurants.  The shareholder resolution was submitted by SumOfUs, an international consumer group and McDonald's shareholder, on behalf of McDonald’s shareholders. Dr Leung is the founder of Sea Smart, a science education organization whose mission is to inspire and empower young people to love and protect our oceans.


The shareholder request comes as a growing global consumer movement has called for the elimination of single-use disposable plastic straws because of their contribution to waste and deleterious impacts on marine life. McDonald’s distributes an estimated 95 million  single-use plastic straws each day in its 36,000 restaurants in over 100 countries, but recently announced plans to phase out plastic straws in the UK.

SumOfUs argues that plastic straws could put McDonald's at a competitive disadvantage, and that shareholder value would be enhanced by the development of plans to phase out plastic straws. SumOfUs members have together sent 2,170 emails to 239 of their pension funds calling on these major investors to support the proposal. Earlier this year, more than 4850,000 people signed a petition from SumOfUs calling on fast food giant McDonald’s to stop using plastic straws. SumOfUs argued that the straws are given to customers, discarded after minutes of use and with many ending up dumped into the ocean, severely harming marine wildlife, specifically turtles, baby seabirds, and fish, as a result.  


“Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to our oceans, and straws are one of the most common plastic items found in beach cleanups. That’s why the plan of McDonald’s - which gives out millions of plastic straws to customers each day - to starting phasing out plastic straws in UK stores is an important first step towards cleaning up our seas and protecting wildlife,” explained Sondhya Gupta, Senior Campaigner for SumOfUs. “But if McDonald's is serious about improving its impact on the environment, it needs to investigate the risks of sticking with plastic globally, and report on those risks. ”

“I’ve had the privilege to work around the world on marine conservation,” says Dr Elaine Leung, marine biologist and founder of Sea Smart, “and have seen first hand even the most remote locations covered in single use plastic items, like straws. It’s heartbreaking, and that’s just a fraction of the 8 billion kg of plastic garbage that enters our oceans each year. Less than 9% of plastic we use is recycled, which is why corporations urgently need to reduce their plastic footprints and find alternatives to single use plastic items. Thankfully, people everywhere are learning about the dangers our plastic addiction poses to all marine life, and are coming together to call on McDonald’s to seriously address its straw problem.”

A YouTube video of a plastic straw being removed from the nostril of a sea turtle has now been

watched by over 15.8 million people. This 2015 video and the prevalence of plastic straws in

marine waste have spurred consumers in the United States, Canada and Europe to ask restaurants and concession vendors to be “straw free.”

According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, approximately 1,800 restaurants and institutions

have eliminated plastic straws. Many US cities are enacting bans on plastic straws: Davis, San Luis Obispo, Manhattan Beach and Malibu, California; Miami Beach and Fort Myers, Florida; andSeattle, Washington have banned plastic straws. The Queen of England has eliminated plastic straws across her estates.Scotland,England,Kenya,Taiwan, Antigua & Barbuda have also taken steps to ban disposable plastic straws. Just this month,Vancouver (Canada) also implemented a plastic straw ban.