McDonald’s is taking cues from breakfast rival Starbucks when. A few years after Starbucks launched strawless lids, McDonald’s is testing out its own in select US markets, the company confirmed.
“These lids help optimize our packaging and eliminate the use of small plastics, just one example of the many solutions we’re reviewing as part of our ongoing global commitment to reduce waste across restaurants and advance recycling,” the company said in a statement.
McDonald’s declined to provide a list of cities where the lids are being piloted.
The trade publication Restaurant Business, which first reported the test earlier this week, said they spotted the new lids in Minneapolis.
Starbucks first introduced strawless lids for cold beverages in 2018. Its lids have a small opening for sipping. McDonald’s strawless lids appear to work differently.
“The lids come with a pullback tab that keeps the top closed for transport,” according to Restaurant Business. “When that tab is pulled, it exposes a half-moon opening for easily drinking the beverage.”
In 2018, McDonald’s pledged to recycle food and beverage packaging in 100% of McDonald’s restaurants by the end of 2025. As part of that effort, the chain focused on alternative straw options outside the US.
McDonald’s said it has seen successful pilots of strawless lids in other countries, including China. The test is expected to reduce 400 metric tons of plastic waste per year. “Our goal is to continue testing and scaling solutions that work,” the company said.
The new lids come after McDonald’s restaurants in the UK rolled out paper straws in 2018. Select restaurants in Europe and Latin America have also introduced fiber alternatives or plastic strawless lids.
When McDonald’s introduced them, people complained that the thin straws dissolved in drinks. According to a BBC report, McDonald’s made them stronger but admitted that the new recyclable materials were hard to process. The Sun, citing an internal memo, reported that McDonald’s described the paper straws as “not yet recyclable” and must be thrown out.
In general, consumers have complained that paper straws do not work as well as plastic. Still, there’s been a movement around the world and in the US to ban or reduce the use of plastic straws. US cities with plastic straw bans include Seattle and San Francisco. Food establishments in New York City and California can only give out plastic straws upon request.
By the end of 2020, McDonald’s said 25% of restaurants in its 30 largest markets offered customers recycled packaging.