Last year, major hospitality company Marriott International pledged to commit to more environmentally friendly practices, with the ultimate goal of reducing landfill waste by 45 percent and responsibly sourcing its top 10 product purchase categories by 2025. Based on their decision last month to ditch plastic straws in all of its hotels by June of 2019, it seems like Marriott is well on its way to meeting that goal.

Marriott Joins Growing Number of Companies to Ban Straws

With more than 6,500 properties across 30 brands around the world, disposable plastic straws and stirrers easily add up. Marriott estimates that they currently go through about 1 billion plastic straws and a quarter billion stirrers each year.

“We are proud to be among the first large U.S. companies to announce that we’re eliminating plastic straws in our properties worldwide,” said Arne Sorenson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Marriott International.

In addition to Marriott International, Starbucks, Disney, Hyatt, American Airlines, and Royal Caribbean are among the few major companies to do away with plastic straws.

“Removing plastic straws is one of the simplest ways our guests can contribute to plastic reduction when staying with us – something they are increasingly concerned about and are already doing in their own homes,” Sorenson added. “We are committed to operating responsibly and – with over one million guests staying with us every night – we think this is a powerful step forward to reducing our reliance on plastics.”

Single-use Plastic Items Are Unnecessary and Harm Animals

The decision comes as people grow more aware of the problem that disposable plastic, including straws and stirrers, cause in the environment. On average, people only use a plastic straw for about 20 seconds before throwing it away. Although normally plastic can be recycled, unfortunately straws cannot. Small and thin, they fall through the conveyor belts at recycling plants. In the end, all straws end up in the garbage, going into the ground or slipping into waterways.

Plastic in the ocean and along beaches is not only an environmental concern, but a big problem for seaside hotels and resorts that thrive on tourism. This motivates both administrators and guests alike to cut out their use.

Plastic straw pollution.

Picture by Kai Schreiber, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

Plastic Use Pollutes and Threatens Oceans

“Our guests come to stay with us to enjoy Maui’s beautiful environment and incredible marine life, so they’re as eager as we are to reduce harmful pollution,” General Manager of Marriott International’s Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa Tetsuji Yamazaki explained. “By eliminating plastic straws, we have been able to create a substantive dialogue with our guests about the importance of protecting the ocean and endangered animals like the honu (green sea turtle).”

According to a 2014 study, there are 270,000 metric tons of plastic in the ocean, and the number is only growing. Although straws only make up a little over 7 percent of the plastic that ends up in the environment in general, because they are so unnecessary for most people, it’s a potentially easy way to help reduce plastic waste. If we don’t stop these wasteful habits, there will likely be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

Right now, Americans alone toss out 500 million plastic straws each day, which won’t decompose for 450 to 1,000 years. By phasing out plastic straws, companies like Marriott International can make a big difference not just in ending single-plastic use, but also in raising awareness.

Cities and Countries Take Steps to Ban Single-Use Plastic

Even more importantly, many cities and states are taking the initiative to create laws limiting or banning single-plastic use items. Plastic straws only make up a small portion of the plastic that’s contaminating the environment, so targeting other items, like packaging material, fishnets, food containers, and plastic bags is even more important.

Several cities in California have already imposed bans, and the entire state is in the process of developing limitations. Just this year, Taiwan developed a plan to eliminate single-use plastic bags, straws, takeout containers, utensils, and cups by 2030, and Chile passed a law banning the use of plastic bags for businesses.

Every little bit helps toward changing habits and reducing plastic waste. In addition to stopping straw use, Marriott International is eliminating single-use toiletry bottles typical to most hotels by installing shampoo dispensers in the showers. The new toiletry dispensers are expected to be in place at more than 1,500 hotels in North America by the end of this year.