With popular TV shows, such as the BBC’s Blue Planet II highlighting the impact on plastic waste on our oceans, there is growing demand for something to be done to address the situation.
While supermarkets are ditching single-use plastic bags, travel providers including hotels, airlines and cruise ships have focused their attention on minimising their use of single-use plastic in the form of straws, cups, bottles and more.
Plastic straws in particular are one of the biggest causes of debris and pollution in our oceans and are difficult to recycle. Their widespread use kills marine life, chokes our reefs and pollutes our beaches and they never decompose completely, instead breaking into bits of microplastic, which poison sealife that mistake them for food.
A ban from a single hotel chain can have a significant impact. For example, AccorHotels, parent company of Fairmont, Raffles, Novotel and more, estimated it used 4.2 million straws in the US and Canada alone in 2017, and have now banned the use of plastic straws in North and Central America. Other hotel brands initiating plastic straw bans include Hilton, Four Seasons, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), Marriott International in the UK, EDITION hotels, Six Senses, Taj Hotels and Anantara.
Marriott and IHG are taking things a step further and are also working to replace small amenity bath bottles with bulk-size dispensers, which according to Marriott will save more than 110kg of plastic per year for a 140-room hotel. Hilton, meanwhile has committed to getting rid of plastic bottles in its conference and event spaces.
Cruise lines, which have an even more vested interest in the state of our oceans, are also beginning to embrace the plastic-free movement.
Hurtigruten aims to be the world’s first plastic-free shipping company and by the end of July 2018, it plans to remove everything from plastic straws to drink mixers, plastic glasses, coffee cup lids and plastic bags from its ships.
Royal Caribbean International will eliminate the use of plastic straws on all of its brands, including Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises, by the end of 2019. It already operates a straw on request policy, but now guests who ask will only receive paper straws. It also plans to introduce sustainable wood coffee stirrers and bamboo garnish picks as part of a wider plastic reduction strategy, which will also eliminate larger plastic items, such as cups and bags by 2020.
Carnival Corporation, which owns P&O Australia, Princess Cruises, Cunard, Holland America and Seabourn, plans to abolish single-use plastics including plastic straws, water bottles and coffee stirrers from ships by 2022. While Peregrine Adventures has also reduced or eliminated the use of plastic straws on their small ships.
More hotels, cruise lines and airlines will no doubt join those already taking action, but we as individuals can also make a difference. Those that prefer, or need, to use a straw, can consider some of the many reusable options now available, including metal, glass, bamboo and silicon varieties on the market. As keen travellers, this small investment is something we all can do to improve the health of our planet. There is even a handy collapsible option dubbed FinalStraw, recently launched on Kickstarter, which comes complete with carry case.