For decades, plastic straws have been essential props for cocktail makers, smoothie lovers and fast food addicts. But that may be starting to change, thanks largely to vigorous environmental campaigning.
Under pressure from activists, the European Union, Britain, India and even fast food giants like McDonald’s have all made some headway towards bringing the use of plastic straws to an end. And with public pressure growing on governments, particularly in Europe, to ban single use plastics, manufacturers are feeling the heat. For years, the focus of environmentalists has been on plastic bags.
But plastic straws have now come into the spotlight, thanks in part to images that have gone viral on the internet. One online video about the danger posed by seemingly innocuous straws shows a sea turtle rescued off Costa Rica getting one removed from its nostril. The British government in April said it planned to ban the sale of single-use plastics including straws.
In the UK and Ireland, McDonald’s has pledged to complete a transition to paper straws by 2019. In France, the burger giant is testing alternatives. The European Union followed suit in late May. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged to make his country free of single use plastic by 2022. In India’s commercial capital Mumbai, Burger King, McDonald’s and Starbucks were fined for violating a ban on single use plastics, an official said earlier in June. Some corporations are also taking steps. The Hilton hotel giant in May vowed to remove the offenders from its 650 properties by the end of 2018.
Pasta and bamboo sticks
There are alternatives to plastic straws, but they are much pricier. The five-star Monte Carlo Palace hotel in Monaco has introduced biodegradable straws. Others are using raw pasta and bamboo sticks. The United States is resisting change while Europe takes the lead with biodegradable plastics made either from fossil fuels or crops such as potatoes and corn.
AFP FOOTNOTE: The InterContinental Hua Hin Resort has declared “we are now a plastic straw-free hotel”. This is a step in the direction of being more environmentally-friendly and officially a plastic straw free hotel. “We will no longer use or provide plastic straws and will only offer paper straws upon guest requests as we aim to reduce the amount of plastic waste that it produces and limit its impact on the environment.”