McDonald’s turns its ‘last straws’ into works of art

The leftovers from phasing out single-use plastics are being used to help the QSR stand out from others talking about similar plans.
McDonald-s Canada-McDonald-s Canada unveils Canadian art series

McDonald’s new campaign is really the last straw for single-use plastics in its effort to improve sustainability and lessen the environmental impact of its waste products.

In late 2021, the company phased out plastic cutlery and straws from its restaurants. To do something with the packages of unused straws still remaining, the fully integrated campaign “The Last Straw” turned some of those straws into McDonald’s serving trays, with 15 Canadian and Indigenous artists enlisted to turn them into pieces of art that reflects their views on sustainability and the environment.

A video showing the creation of the trays, as well as interviews with the artists delving into their inspiration, will run for the next two weeks across McDonald’s Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and Snapchat accounts, according to Gemma Pryor, senior director of the impact team for McDonald’s Canada. Weber Shandwick developed the campaign concept and will be leading earned media outreach. Cossette led the creation of the social and digital content, with national paid media led by OMD.

Pryor says this campaign is the end of a “very long journey” for straws in McDonald’s restaurants, as it had to go through the process of testing and selecting the best paper-based replacement.

“‘The Last Straw’ campaign is the cherry on top of a very carefully thought-out process,” Pryor says. “We challenged ourselves to find an inventive and out-of-the-box way to give some of these plastic straws a ‘second act’, and thanks to our selected artists, they can live on as something beautiful.”

In addition to transitioning away from single-use plastics, McDonald’s Canada has the ultimate goal of sourcing 100% of its primary guest packaging from renewable, recyclable or certified sources by 2025.

Canadians want Mcdonald’s to “walk the walk” when it comes to sustainability and lessening its environmental footprint, according to Pryor, and it hopes to separate itself from the plethora of QSRs implementing similar policies using its market share: three millions customers visit McDonald’s daily. That’s a lot less plastic straws and other single-use plastics!

“Our scale is massive so small changes can add up to big impact,” Pryor says. ”Removing plastic cutlery, stir sticks and straws will remove approximately 700 tonnes of plastics from the Canadian system annually, approximately 370 tonnes of which are attributed to plastic straws.”

While Pryor declined to specify how much was spent on the campaign, she did note that, given this is “newer territory,” there wasn’t a past campaign to compare it to. She did say that, looking forward, Canadians will be informed as McDonald’s continues to implement further policies with regards to sustainability.

The trays themselves are being donated to local Ronald McDonald House locations across Canada, who may use them for whatever purpose they please, be it on display for visiting families to enjoy or to be auctioned off as a fundraiser.