On October 7, McDonald’s Japan announced that it will gradually introduce paper straws at all its stores in Japan. 20 days in, the paper straws are not well received. It has been described as “like drinking from a toilet paper core”.
The movement to reduce plastic straws in Japan began to widen around 2020. Starbucks Japan started offering paper straws for some products in March 2020, and all straws, including those for Frappuccinos, were made of paper by September 2021. At the time, McDonald’s Japan was troubled by the weak durability and odor of paper straws and did not immediately adopt them, and has been developing comfortable straws that do not interfere with the dining experience. After the improvements, they started offering paper straws fully prepared, but then the reputation is as I mentioned earlier.
Overall, paper straws do not have a good reputation in Japan. In June 2021, the Law for Promotion of Recycling of Plastic Resources, which aims to reduce plastic waste and promote recycling, came into effect. At convenience stores, plastic straws were discontinued at the fastest pace and replaced with paper straws. Incidentally, very good coffee, freshly ground from the bean, is readily available at convenience stores in Japan. We use a straw when drinking iced coffee, but a paper straw would reduce the enjoyment of a delicious iced coffee drink by half. As a result, the paper straws for convenience store coffee, which should have been the earliest to become popular in Japan, somehow reverted back to their original plastic counterparts.
Some suggestions include adopting a perforated lid with a drinking hole instead of a straw and using straws made of biomass plastic instead of paper. More to the point, we must also consider the question, does it really makes sense to cut back on plastic straws in the first place? The problem we are currently tackling is trying to reduce the absolute amount of plastic generated, and in Japan, plastic straws account for about 3/10,000 of all plastic products used in daily life. Moreover, most of them are usually thrown in the trash and properly incinerated. Will the introduction of paper straws produce results that are worth the sacrifice of a comfortable dining experience?
Anyway, McDonald’s Japan’s adoption of paper straws was at one point high on Twitter’s trending rankings (in terms of unpopularity, that is). One said, “Aren’t we too sensitive to even care about the mouth feel of a paper straw that is not food?