Stir it up – with anything but plastic

What do Royal Caribbean, Sea World, Ikea, McDonald’s, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Starbucks, Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, IHG and Disney have in common? All have adopted the plastic straw ban.

It’s virtually impossible to keep up with the growing list of corporations banning food service-related plastic SKUs, and although most bans are calling out a biodegradable  replacement, rarely does a week go by in my office without a major corporation inquiring about what to use in its place without increasing costs.

Kraft paper straws
Kraft paper straws

It’s important to note that while supporting the environment is indeed critical, many of those weekly inquiries include conversations about the potential negative effect the ban will have for those with disabilities who require sturdy stable straws in order to drink. Regardless, most are opting to move forward with the assigned task including alternatives for “most” sipping needs.

Following is an update on a few who have made the plastic straw ban pledge, followed by a few replacement ideas.

Starbucks, a leader in plastic straw usage, has committed to reducing the use of over 1 billion straws annually from its 28,000 stores globally by 2020. Recyclable strawless lids will be the prefered replacement option. Customers who still want or need to use straws can request them, although, they won’t be made of plastic. Paper straws and other alternative materials are being tested in both California and the U.K.

Disney is eliminating its usage of 175 million straws and 13 million drink stirrers each year by mid-2019, with one exception: Tokyo Disney. On a side note, the elimination of single-use plastic bags and a transition to in-room reusable amenities in all Disney hotels and cruise ships is expected.

Hyatt has addressed the ban by converting to a policy in 700 hotels where straws and stirrers are available by special request. The alternative will be an “ocean-friendly” option yet to be announced.

American Airlines is replacing plastic straws in its lounges with biodegradable, eco-friendly straws and wood stir sticks. For passengers on flights, beverage stirrers will be sustainable and made of environmentally friendly bamboo. This particular change equates to an elimination of more than 71,000 pounds of plastic annually.

Alaska Airlines initially gave away more than 22 million compostable straws and stirrers made from citrus picks on their flights. However, there is a replacement plan in progress to switch from citrus picks to a white birch stir stick as well as a bamboo alternative. 

Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants is removing plastic straws in all of its 120 restaurants located in nine states and transitioning to either natural or biodegradable alternatives including paper, hay or “none at all.” 

Hilton is committed to cutting its environmental footprint with plans to remove plastic straws from 650 properties managed globally to save an estimated 35 million straws yearly. With a goal to be straw-free by the end of this year, replacement plans include paper or a biodegradable option.

Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants is proactively working on ways to replace single-use plastic straws with compostable or metal straws, or to serve drinks without straws altogether. Side note: Kimpton has implemented other environmentally friendly practices including key cards made from recycled post-consumer plastic and recyclable to-go cups and bags.

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts locations will stop using plastic straws by the end of 2018 with a switch to biodegradable straws made of paper, bamboo or corn.

IHG is the most recent hotel company announcing its commitment to remove plastic straws, which on average tally 50 million annually in over 5,400 of their branded hotels. Biodegradable aternatives to plastic straws will be made available.

With several alternatives in the works, the most common appears to be biodegradable and 100% compostable paper options rigid enough to not break down in drinks. Other options include straws from all-natural grain stalks, which actually enhance the environment including kraft, hay, paper, bamboo and PLA materials.

The overall consensus is that the ban is a powerful example of how major corporations can come together with guests, owners and colleagues to drive positive change.

An example of a strawless lid
An example of a strawless lid