While plastic straws are technically recyclable, their small size and weight mean they are often missed by sorting machines and the sheer number of straws used every day means they make a big contribution to the millions of tons of plastic that end up in our oceans every year. The move to paper straws will be completed next year.
Some advocates say plastic straws are safer for certain customers with disabilities, but McDonald's says the plastic versions will still be available upon request "for those that require it".
'We all have a responsibility to our environment and this simple yet effective initiative is a fine example to other large businesses, ' he said.
McDonald's is testing alternatives to plastic straws in Belgium, France, the U.S. and Norway and in parts of Latin America is only offering plastic straws on request.
McDonald's will replace plastic straws with paper ones in all its United Kingdom and Ireland restaurants, starting from September.
Recycling non-profit Eco-Cycle claims that the USA uses 500 million plastic straws every day.
Plastic straws enable many disabled people to drink independently, according to Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson. Only 1% are recycled, largely because they are made of a mixture of polypropylene and polystyrene.
Francesca DeBiase, executive vice president, global supply chain and sustainability, said: 'McDonald's is committed to using our scale for good and working to find sustainable solutions for plastic straws globally.
And more than 60 independent British festivals - including Boardmasters and Bestival - have banned plastic straws as part of a pledge to rid their sites of single-use plastic by 2021.
The chain has been working with start-up Transcend Packaging, based in Wales, and Huhtamaki, an global company that will produce the straws in Belfast.
The new straws will use paper coming from certified sustainable sources, the company said.
McDonald's are to replace their plastic straws with paper in September of this year, following a successful trial in both Ireland and the UK.