05.26.2018

The Death of the Plastic Straw

The Death of the Plastic Straw Photograph by Tommaso Bonaventura, contrasto/Redux

In 2015, a disturbing video of an olive ridley sea turtle suffering from a plastic straw stuck in its nose went viral, changing many viewers’ attitudes toward the plastic tool that is largely a convenience for most people.

In the United States, we dispose of millions of plastic straws each day. In the U.K., at least 4.4 billion straws are estimated to be thrown away annually. Hotels are some of the worst offenders: Hilton Waikoloa Village, which became the first resort on the island of Hawaii to eliminate plastic straws earlier this year, used more than 800,000 straws in 2017.

But now, the plastic straw has finally started to become an endangered species itself, with some cities in the United States (Seattle, Washington; Miami Beach and Fort Myers Beach, Florida; and Malibu, Davis, and San Luis Obispo, California) banning them, and some countries limiting single-use plastic items, which include straws. Belize, Taiwan, and England are among the latest countries to propose bans.

Still, a company doesn’t have to wait for the government to institute a ban before implementing one on its own. Soneva banned straws in 2008, and Cayuga has been using bamboo straws since 2010. Hotels like these have paved the way for a movement and the travel and hospitality industries are finally starting to catch on.

Hotel brands initiating plastic straw bans include Four Seasons, AccorHotels North and Central America, Marriott International in the U.K., EDITION hotels, the Doyle Collection, Six Senses, Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris, Experimental Group, and Anantara. Cruise lines and tour companies including Carnival, Hurtigruten, Peregrine Adventures, and Coral Expeditions have reduced or eliminated their use of plastic straws on their ships. And luxury safari companies like &Beyond and Wilderness Safaris are both working toward removing plastic straws from their lodges.

For the full story, visit NationalGeographic.com/Travel.