Straws will soon become a thing of the past at countless North American airport restaurants and travel venues.
Global restaurateur HMSHost, a company the operates dining locations at airports across the continent, has announced that environmentally harmful straws will be eliminated by 2020. The move is a substantial one for a company that last year alone used about 100 million straws.
“At HMSHost, we believe that each of us can start somewhere to make our world a better place. Today, I’m proud to further our commitment as good corporate citizens with the elimination of plastic straws by 2020,” HMSHost President and CEO Steve Johnson said in a statement.
“Our position in this industry allows us to lead in the areas of sustainability and environmental protection. I encourage our industry peers to join us in this vital step to have a lasting impact for future generations.”
Americans use an average of 500 million drinking straws daily and more than 175 billion straws find their way into landfills and oceans every year.
Elimination of straws is part of a broader global movement to do away with a broad range of environmentally damaging single-use plastics. The movement has begun to gain momentum over the past year or more amid a spate of news about just how detrimental plastics have been to the ocean alone.
Current estimates are that there are more than 150 million tons of plastics in the ocean at large. If business continues as usual, the ocean will contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025, and by 2050, the oceans may have more plastics than fish, by weight.
Straws are just one small part of the plastics problem, which also encompasses cutlery, plates, plastic bags and water bottles, to name a few.
Most plastics are not biodegradable and remain in the environment for hundreds of years, according to a recent report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which describes the problem as a global emergency.
Equally concerning, tiny pieces of micro-plastic are eaten by fish or other creatures and then end up in the seafood consumed by humans. It is thought the sea now contains some 51 trillion microplastic particles. Some plastic is toxic and can disrupt hormones crucial for a healthy existence.
To meet its objective of ending plastic straw use, HMSHost will work with its expansive portfolio of restaurant brands to reduce waste and find sustainable, innovative alternatives.
The announcement regarding straws is just the latest sustainability effort from HMSHost. Earlier this year, the company began eliminating plastic cocktail stirrers in nearly all casual dining locations.
In addition, HMSHost created two straw-free signature cocktails to raise awareness and further fuel the conversation on social media about the environmental impact of plastic straws and other single-use plastics, using the hashtag #NoStraws.
HMSHost is just the latest in a string of travel industry companies that have announced elimination of plastic products. Recent similar announcments have come from American Airlines, Hyatt and SeaWorld.
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