"The government's ambitious plans, combined with strong customer opinion, has helped to accelerate the move away from plastic and I'm proud that we've been able to play our part", said Paul Pomroy, chief executive of McDonald's United Kingdom and Ireland.
Under pressure by environmentalists, McDonald's said Friday that it will start testing alternatives to plastic straws at select locations in the US later this year.
This decision follows a successful trial in selected restaurants earlier this year.
Every day, McDonald's is estimated to dispense millions of plastic straws, many of which are discarded and do not easily biodegrade.
It hopes all plastic straws will have been replaced by next year. And in Malaysia, McDonald's will try a new approach to dispensing straws - giving them out only if a customer requests one.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove called it a "significant contribution" to helping the environment, adding that it was "a fine example to other large businesses".
McDonald's isn't the only major straw user to start tossing them aside.
"We want more companies to say no to unnecessary single-use plastics".
The Sum of Us petition calling for the change had warned that many plastic straws ended up polluting the ocean, harming seabirds and marine life. She said paper alternatives were not always suitable or safe.
Eric Goldstein, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the announcement from as big a company as McDonald's reflects the growing tide of concern about single-use plastics worldwide.
McDonald's also plans to test alternatives to plastic straws in some of its locations in France, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and Australia, as well as in some of its more than 14,000 USA restaurants.
It argues that straws can be recycled together with cartons if they are pushed back into the box.
McDonald's said it had found two suppliers to meet its needs for paper straws, the start-up Transcend Packaging based in Wales, and Huhtamaki, a global company which will produce the straws at its plant in Belfast.