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The Last Straws
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The Last Straws

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Single-use plastic consumer items such as plastic straws, cups and cutlery have been growing in popularity since sometime past as part of the use-and-throw culture practised all over our lonely and much polluted planet. What’s more, we seem to have become dependent on these apparently harmless objects that have become part of our life and custom. However, awareness is fast spreading among people about the evils of plastic waste, especially with plastic straws in a way never seen before.

While California with its extended coastline and golden beaches that were littered with plastic waste had been the focal point of the U.S. movement against plastic bag, the travel and hospitality industries in continental America have ceased to be hospitable to plastic straws.

However, prior to delving deeper into the topic, let me take a small break to let you know why the axe has now fallen on plastic straws which may seem utterly innocuous, yet deadly when collected in large numbers.

Plastic straws are used in such vast quantities around US cities that they end up in the oceans simply through carelessness or apathy. They are either left to rot on beaches or are blown into the ocean by the wind. Plastic straws are also conveyed into the sea through rivers and sundry other water channels.

However, plastic does not biodegrade due to its inherent properties. Instead, it breaks down into smaller pieces called ‘microplastics’ which are ingested by marine animals with deadly results.

According to StrawlessOcean.org more than 70% of seabirds and 30% of turtles have been found with plastic in their stomachs and when plastic is ingested, their rate of survival becomes pretty slim. And if this is allowed to continue, marine life will be totally destroyed in not too distant future, leaving miles of plastic straws floating on the ocean.

Now that the horrors of plastic straws have been fully established, we might as well go back to the original theme, namely how the travel and hospitality industry in the US are eliminating plastic straws from their business activities.

Hilton Hotels & Resorts (formerly known as Hilton Hotel), a global brand of full- service hotels and resorts , together with flagship brand of Hilton will eliminate plastic straws within the end of the current year. The group will also do away with plastic bottles (water bottles) from conferences and events conducted under its aegis. Hilton’s managed hotels located in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji have hitherto removed plastic straws from their services, while biodegradable paper straws are provided on demand.

Marriot (Marriot International) has already stopped use of plastic straws in 50 of its managed hotels in UK.

AccorHotels (Accor Hotels group) has already imposed ban on use of plastic straws at its North and Central America properties. Meanwhile, some of its franchisee hotels have instituted ‘straws upon request only’ policy.

Delaware North, one of the largest family owned hospitality and food service companies in the world has strained its reins on use of plastic straws on its 200+ dining locations strewn over 23 airports and travel destinations across the U.S. ‘ The Last Straw’ campaign instituted by hospitality giant provides straw ‘only on request’.

Starbucks – Since it involves a mammoth operation to phase out single-use plastic straws  from its 28,00+ outlets strewn all over the world involving elimination of one billion straws every year, it has replaced the straws with innovatively designed recyclable lid. A groundbreaking idea indeed!

Disney has made it clear that it would eliminate single-use plastic straw  and stirrers at their different locations by middle of the year 2019, save and except the Tokyo Disney which is operated by some other bodies.

Hyatt confirmed that plastic straws and ‘drink picks’ will be provided only against request, with effect from September 1, 2018.

American Airlines came up with the statement that they would discontinue the use of plastic straw from its lounges, while replacing these with biodegradable, eco-friendly straws and drink stirrers ASAP.

Alaska Airlines, along with its partner non-profit Lonely Whale has replaced the entire lot of plastic straws with ‘sustainable alternatives’ in all its airport lounges, as also on all domestic and overseas flights.

Bon Appétit, an American food and entertainment magazine has promised to advise all restaurant members spread over 33 states to discontinue use of plastic straws and stirrers latest by 2019.

Sea World Entertainment, formerly Busch Entertainment Corporation and SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, LLC, headquartered in Orlando, Florida has agreed to eliminate plastic straws and carry bags from its 12 theme parks, that includes the famed Busch Gardens as ‘part of its mission’ to protect animals and habitats worldwide.”

The crusade that was started by globally recognized Richie Bags and Fashions P.Ltd, manufacturer and exporter of biodegradable, eco-friendly jute carry bags, against single-use plastic consumer items almost a decade ago is now bearing fruit. While most world countries have banned manufacturing, sale and use of single-use plastic bags, stalwarts of travel and hospitality industries in the US have systematically eliminated plastic straws from their day-to-day business activities. In view of such strong and vigorous actions it is reasonably hoped that we can get closer to a plastic-free planet.

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