News in brief – McDonald’s to stop using plastic straws in UK, Biodegradable water bottles, and plants which won’t need pesticides

McDonald’s to stop using plastic straws – in UK

After a large campaign, McDonald’s has agreed to stop using plastic straws in the UK and instead use ones made of paper.

1.8 million straws are used every day in UK McDonald’s restaurants and as these can’t be properly broken down or reused the plastic hangs around in the environment for centuries or even millennia. While the plastics will get broken down into microplastics in time, and the tiny plastics won’t choke wildlife,  they can build up in wildlife, and it had already been shown that fish for human consumption containing these microplastics is being eaten around the world including in the UK.

Paper straws may eventually get too soggy to be used,  but we are talking about a fast food chain, they don’t need to last long!

While this decision only affects the UK, we aren’t the only country looking at this issue.  Sweden, France, USA and Norway all have trials of paper straws going on currently. Of course, not all countries have people concerned about their environmental footprint,  but one would hope that at some point McDonald’s would decide that their worldwide empire will follow these countries’ example.

Biodegradable water bottle

At the moment,  if you wish to buy water when out and about, you have no option but to buy it in a plastic bottle. While many people will reuse this bottle by refilling it at home, it is an inherently poor use of plastic and will usually end up in landfill after only a week or two at the best. In landfill it may take many, many years or even centuries to fully breakdown. While a recent breakthrough was discovered on an Asian rubbish heap, where they found bacteria that can break down these plastics and with work are likely to be able to break them down fast enough to be used on an industrial scale, plastics are made from oil and so come from a limited resource. As such whether they can be broken down or not,  we are likely to need an alternative in the near future.

Step forward “Choose Water” a new ethical water company which has created a revolutionary bottle. It is made from recycled paper with a natural waterproof lining, which only takes 2 to 3 weeks at sea to break down into useful substances to sea life.

There is a hunger for bottles like this and they are already expanding their plans to accommodate this. Here’s hoping their product is successful and they can provide for companies such as Evian.

Plants which won’t need pesticides

Scientists are engineering plants that produce pheromones of bugs that attack them. This will make the pests incapable of reproducing. This could prove to be a huge advantage as the pesticides used are expensive and often not good for the environment.  Current methods have a similar impact on pests as on advantageous insects such as bees, which are required for healthy crops.

This move has the ability to reduce the cost of growing crops (pesticides are often expensive) while at the same time using fewer chemicals, and getting more food overall.  

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