Americans use millions of straws every day. But that number could go down as more companies, like Starbucks, are pledging to ditch plastic, single-use straws.
American Airlines joined Starbucks and Hyatt announcing that they are phasing out the use of plastic straws globally. Plenty of companies in countries like the U.K. and Taiwan, such as McDonald's and Marriott International — which just announced an initiative to eliminate plastic straws worldwide — are ahead of their counterparts in the U.S. in terms of reducing their reliance on plastic. So while those who announced this week are not the first to pledge giving up plastic straws, they're certainly the biggest name brands in the U.S.
The corporate actions come amid increased public awareness about the dangers and damage caused by the eight metric tons of plastic that ends up in the ocean every single year. This is in part because of recent social media campaigns using celebrities to ask people to stop using plastic, as well as a viral video of a sea turtle having a plastic straw extracted from its nostrils that has been viewed more than 30 million times on YouTube.
Here are other U.S. companies, states and cities that have pledged to phase out the use of plastic straws:
For an international company like Starbucks, phasing out single-use plastic straws from its more than 28,000 stores around the world will eliminate the use of 1 billion straws every single year. The coffee giant is replacing straws with newly designed recyclable lids that will "become standard on most iced drinks," according to a press release from the company. It's a big deal given 50% of Starbucks sales in 2017 came from cold beverages, a 13% increase from five years ago.
The new lids are already being used for some Starbucks drinks in 8,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada. While the new lids will still be made of plastic, they will be comprised of polypropylene, which "can be widely recycled," according to the company.
“This move is an answer to our own partners about what we can do to reduce the need for straws,” said Colleen Chapman, vice president of Starbucks global social impact overseeing sustainability in the release. “Not using a straw is the best thing we can do for the environment.”
Customers who still want or need to use straws will still be able to request them — but they won't be made out of plastic. Starbucks started testing straws made from alternative materials last year in California, and is currently trying out paper straws in U.K. stores, the release says.
Disney announced it would eliminate single-use plastic straws and stirrers at all their locations by mid-2019. The only exception will be Tokyo Disney, Which is operated by The Oriental Land Company, according to the company's website.
The company will also cut back on single use plastic bags and transition to in-room reusable amenities in hotels and cruise ships as a way to continue their "commitment to environmental stewardship [that] goes back to to our founding," Dr. Mark Penning, Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks wrote in a Disney Parks blogpost.
Disney estimates that it will reduce their annual plastic footprint by 175 million plastic straws and 13 million stirrers. They also said it is their goal to eventually operate with zero waste and zero green house gas emissions.
Hyatt announced that plastic straws and drink picks will only be available by request after September 1 of this year. The company said "eco-friendly alternatives will be provided where available" in a press release. Hyatt introduced its "2020 Environmental Sustainability Vision" four years ago, making commitments to more sustainable practices, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% (compared to 2006 levels) across all regions, and offering reusable earbuds rather than single-use ones in its North American fitness centers, according to the release.
The worldwide hotel chain also works with Clean the World, a non-profit that collects and donates unused bath products from the hotels and distributes them to communities in need.
American Airlines announced Tuesday it would eliminate plastic straws from its lounges and replace them with biodegradable, eco-friendly straws and wood stir sticks starting in July. In a statement, the airline said it will also transition to eco-friendly flatware within lounges and that starting in November, it will transition from a plastic straw and stir stick that is usually offered during onboard beverage to a stir stick made of sustainable and environmentally friendly bamboo.
These changes will eliminate more than 71,000 pounds of plastic per year, according to the airline.
“We’re very excited and proud to share this initiative with our team members and customers,” Jill Surdek, Vice President of Flight Service, said in a statement. “We’re cognizant of our impact on the environment and we remain committed to doing our part to sustain the planet for future generations of travelers.”
Alaska Airlines partnered with the non-profit Lonely Whale in May to replace plastic straws and citrus picks with "sustainable alternatives in its airport lounges and on all domestic and international commercial flights" starting in July 2018. In 2017, Alaska Airlines gave out more than 22 million plastic straws and citrus picks. Those items will be replaced with white birch stir sticks and a "bamboo alternative" for the citrus picks.
Bon Appétit said in May it is banning all plastic straws and stirrers in 1,000 restaurants in 33 states, and expects to have them completely phased out by 2019. The food service management company bought almost 17 million plastic straws in 2017.
In June, SeaWorld announced that plastic straws and shopping bags would be eliminated from its 12 theme parks, including Busch Gardens, as "part of its mission to protect animals and habitats worldwide."
The cruise line said in June that it would stop providing plastic straws on its 50 cruise ships by the end of 2018.
In late July, Marriott International announced it would completely eliminate plastic straws and stirrers from its properties worldwide by 2019. The company estimated it uses about 1 billion straws and 250 million stirrers per year across more than 6,5000 locations. Marriott began phasing out plastic straws overseas earlier this year, ditching the plastic drinking utensils from its hotels in London in February.
States and Cities
It's not just companies that are phasing out the use of plastic straws. Cities and states are taking action to reduce their negative impact on the environment as well; Seattle became the first big U.S. city to ban the use of plastic straws, beginning July 1 this year.
California is exploring the possibility of banning plastic straws using Assembly Bill 1884, which would prohibit food facilities from "providing single-use plastic straws...to consumers unless requested by the consumer." If passed, the bill would be backed up by small fines to the offending facilities. Cities in the state have also started banning straws, with places like Malibu, Oakland and Berkley already instating straw rules.
On the East Coast, New Jersey's Monmouth Beach approved banning both plastic straws and bags, while in New York City a bill to ban plastic straws was introduced in May. In Florida, Miami Beach, Fort Myers Beach and St. Petersburg have all banned plastic straws.
Correction: The original version of this story said incorrectly that Fort Myers, Fla., was one of the cities that banned plastic straws. It is Fort Myers Beach, not Fort Myers.