Hong Kong environmentalists have criticised fast-food chain McDonald’s for giving out plastic straws in spite of their own no-straws policy.

Piles of plastic straws remain freely available at a McDonald’s counter right beside straw dispensers that were empty and taped up, according to photos and videos posted on Facebook.

The fast-food chain launched “No Straw Monday” last September, and expanded it to “No Straw Everyday” in December. All McDonald’s and McCafé restaurants emptied their straw dispensers and stopped handing straws out, but customers could still request them from the staff.

However, Facebook user Jeremy Mair posted videos last month showing a tray of plastic straws at a McDonald’s counter. He called the policy a “complete and utter failure.”

“It’s a real shame as McDonald’s should be setting an example which other businesses would have to follow,” he wrote. “Now it looks like there will be none of that and it’s business as usual.”

Recycling company Chun Sing Development also posted similar photos on its Facebook page, along with a photo of other disposable plastic cutlery and condiment packaging.

Posted by 環保進城 – 雋成 on Monday, 18 February 2019

“To cite a popular saying, I feel these photos really emphasise ‘Hong Kong’s deep-seated conflicts’… To have a no-straw policy but also produce ten times the plastic waste, maybe it’s one of Hong Kong’s ‘core values?’” the post read.

McDonald’s Hong Kong told HKFP that the company strives to reduce single plastic usage.

“By implementing various environmental protection initiatives, including the phasing out of plastic foam packaging, reducing the use of plastic straws and introducing wooden stirrers, McDonald’s expects to reduce its single-use plastic usage by 30 per cent each year,” a representative said.

It added that the restaurant chain had replaced all foam packaging and plastic stirrers with paper or wooden substitutes last year.

No Straw Monday McDonald's
No Straw Monday at McDonald’s. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

The company did not comment on the videos and photos showing plastic straws given out on trays. When asked about the company’s procurement policy and spending on straws, McDonald’s declined to comment.

McDonald’s was among a list of high-profile companies that adopted a no-straw policy in 2018: in June, Ocean Park and food delivery service Deliveroo started a no-straw campaign, which was soon followed by similar policies at KFC and Maxim’s MX.

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.