Plastic Straw Hazard Awareness on the Increase – By Glenn Hasek

A woman holding a straw - Source - Lonely Whale
Plastic Straw Hazard Awareness on the Increase

Efforts to eliminate plastic straws are gaining momentum, not only at the individual property level but to some degree at the government level as well. Hilton Waikoloa Village recently announced that they have become the first resort on Hawaii Island to no longer offer plastic straws. In 2017, the resort used more than 800,000 straws while serving more than 1 million guests. As of January 31, 2018, the resort made the switch to FDA-approved, GMO and BPA-free, compostable paper straws across the 62-acre, 1,241-room property.

“We had been aware of the effects of plastic straws and collectively working on a plan to resolve the matter for a number of months with Dolphin Quest, originally for just one restaurant,” says Simon Amos, Hotel Manager. “Coupled with concerned guests notifying us of the impact that plastic straws have on our environment, we were thrilled to be able to respond and officially say that January 31, 2018 was ‘the last straw.’”

The plastic straw replacement initiative was led by Amos, Michael Hofstedt (Beverage Manager), Matthew Lane (Director of Food & Beverage), and supported by David Givens (General Manager) and Tim Owens (Dolphin Quest General Manager).

Amos says it was easy to find a paper alternative to plastic. While there is an additional cost for compostable paper straws, Amos says that cost is offset by a “straw upon request only” policy.

Guest Experience Not Impacted

According to Travel Pulse, an effort launched by Sheraton Maui, which ended the automatic distribution of plastic straws in all beverages in favor of paper straw upon request last fall, has been replicated on the island of O’ahu at The Modern Honolulu. The Modern Honolulu realized that their food and beverage outlets gave out 612,000 plastic straws with beverages in 2017 and eliminating those items from their service could eliminate the waste without meaningfully impacting the guest experience.

Marble Distilling Co. (MDC), a pioneer in zero waste sustainable distilling and business practices just kicked off #TheLastStraw movement to encourage a ban on plastic straws. The Distillery Inn at MDC in Carbondale, Colo., was the only North American property to be named a 2017 Green Hotelier Award Winner.

In Scotland, The Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa, Edinburgh announced it will ban plastic straws, instead offering guests a biodegradable alternative.

Earlier this year, the State of Hawaii considered legislation to ban plastic straws, although that legislation was strongly opposed by Hawaii’s food service industry, which said that that paper straws are twice as expensive as plastic ones. Similar legislation has been proposed in California and the town of Malibu, Calif. has voted to “prohibit the sale, distribution and use of single-use plastic straws and cutlery within the City to protect the environment from plastic pollution.” Malibu has also previously taken steps previously to ban plastic bags, plastic sandbags and polystyrene foam.

Marriott Going with Paper in U.K.

Last month, Marriott International announced it is removing all disposable plastic straws from U.K. properties, opting instead for paper straws. “By removing plastic straws from our hotels in the U.K., we are making a small but significant step in playing our part in reducing the volume of plastic that damages our environment and wildlife,” Marriott’s Michel Miserez said.

London-based The Caterer recently reported that a petition calling for a 5p plastic straw charge has gained more than 11,000 signatures as hotels, pubs and restaurants continue to introduce bans. The government will now respond to the petition, which states: “Almost every piece of plastic ever produced still exists today. Most single-use plastic straws are discarded, often winding up in landfill, or contributing to the eight million tons of plastic entering the sea every year.”

By 2030, a ban on single-use plastics such as straws, bags, cups and utensils could be fully rolled out in Taiwan, if the nation’s Environmental Protection Administration has its way. The ban is expected to roll out in three stages with implementation completed by 2030. If the ban rolls out as expected, it would be one of the most stringent policies against single-use plastics in the world, Plastics News reports. Beginning next year, plastic straws will be disallowed for in-store use at food and beverage stores, and totally banned by 2030.

Each day in the United States, an average of 500 million straws are used, totaling billions of straws each year, according to Eco-Cycle. That adds up to 175 billion plastic straws a year. The plastic straws aren’t easily recyclable and frequently end up in the ocean where marine animals are ingesting them.

In Hawaii, sometimes the straws end up washed up on the beautiful beaches that bring tourists to the islands in the first place, said Hawaii State Senator Karl Rhoads. They’re one of the most common debris items found during beach cleanups.

Birds, Turtles Consume Plastic

A study by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that nearly 90 percent of all seabirds have ingested some form of plastic. Similarly, a study in Conservation Biology found at least half of the world’s green turtle population has also consumed some form of plastic.

As hoteliers and restaurateurs become more educated about the environmental downside of plastic straws, manufacturers of paper straws are benefiting. Kara Woodring, Sales Representative for Aardvark Straws, says demand for paper straws at her Fort Wayne, Ind.-based company has at least doubled in the last couple of months. Properties with beach front areas have been particularly interested in paper straws.

“Plastic straws are not recyclable,” Woodring says. “They either end up in the landfill or in a body of water. They either contaminate ground water or break down into micro-plastics.”

Woodring says Aardvark Straws has partnered with grass-roots advocate groups to get the word out about the dangers of plastic straws.

While some companies now offer bamboo straws, straws made from polylactic acid (PLA) or even reusable glass straws, some can have their own downside. Reusable straws, for example, can be difficult to clean.

When asked what businesses should look for in paper straws, Woodring said, “You want them to be marine degradable and backyard compostable. They can break down with UV light and agitation. You want someone who can get you a product quickly and reliably.”

Woodring says her company’s straws can be custom designed in as many colors or designs as possible. “We can print on the paper wrapper as well,” she says. Aardvark Straws offers customers table tents, posters and other marketing material to help get the word out about plastic versus paper straws.

Paper Straws Made in U.S.A.

Aardvark Straws are made from paper from trees in FSC or FSI certified forests and are manufactured in Fort Wayne, Ind. “We have quite a few hotel restaurant clients and also sell through distributors,” Woodring says.

Addressing industry concern about the higher costs for paper straws—Woodring says it is a matter of paying two cents per straw instead of one—she said 90 percent of Aardvark Straws customers have implemented a straw upon request policy. Those who have done that are seeing a 40 to 60 percent reduction in straw costs.

To learn more about the strawless movement, visit For a list of suppliers providing alternatives to plastic straws, click here. To learn why “compostable” plastic straws are not the answer, click here.

This article first appeared on the Green Lodging News website. To sign up to receive the weekly Green Lodging News newsletter, go to Glenn Hasek can be reached at