Disney joins plastic straw ban

Disney is the latest American company to ban plastic straws, plastic stirrers and similar products at its theme parks to curb pollution. John Dyer reports from Boston.

Photo by Park Troopers on Unsplash

“Eliminating plastic straws and other plastic items are meaningful steps in our longstanding commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Disney Chairman of Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products Bob Chapek in a statement last week.

“These new global efforts help reduce our environmental footprint, and advance our long-term sustainability goals.”

188 million straws and stirrers

Slated to take effect next year, the straw ban will prevent around 188 million straws and stirrers from littering the ground or reaching oceans and lakes, claimed the Southern California entertainment giant, adding that executives were drafting other plans to reduce plastic at theme parks, cruise liners and other aspects of business.

It would hopefully also inspire young people to consider how plastic pollution has skyrocketed in the ocean in recent decades, according to M. Sanjayan, chief executive officer of Conservation International, a Virginia-based non-profit that aims to protect nature through academic and corporate partnerships, who issued a statement in Disney’s press release.

Showing children how to protect nature

“Disney has always been inspired by nature—and it is a uniquely powerful brand that inspires, educates, and entertains, all at the same time,” said Sanjayan.

“Today’s announcement is more than about reducing single-use plastic waste, it’s also about showing millions of kids and adults from around the world the many ways we can change our daily habits to care for the oceans and protect nature that sustains us all.”

Marriott, Starbucks, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment – which, like Disney, manage theme parks and other businesses – have eliminated straws from their stores and properties, too.

“We’re removing plastic straws in our stores globally by 2020 – reducing more than 1 billion plastic straws per year from our stores,” Starbucks said on July 9.

Local governments also banning straws

Local governments like San Francisco, Seattle and Miami Beach have banned straws.

“When you see first-hand how invasive plastic can be in our environment, it really compels the desire to do something,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told the Miami Herald. “We need to be the most plastic-free city in the world.”

Miami beach officials noted that 10 bartenders collected more than 400 straws on a stretch of beach that was around one-third-of-a-kilometre long.

New York City Council Speak Corey Johnson proposed a ban, saying he and his colleagues already have cut plastic straws out of their offices. “We use paper straws, and I walk around with a Mason jar that I fill up with water or iced coffee, instead of the plastic bottles, and I use one of the paper straws,” Johnson told WNYC.

Most bans allows disabled customers to use plastic straws if necessary.

Straw bans garnering criticism

But some bans have garnered criticism, often from free marketeers, because they arguably symbolize big government intervening into the daily lives of citizens.

In Santa Barbara, a coastal California city north of Los Angeles, people who are caught violating the plastic straw ban face a fine of $1,000 and as much as six months in jail.

“Straw opponents in Santa Barbara and beyond are willing to make more of their fellow citizens into criminals for victimless offenses,” wrote Christian Britschgi in Reason, a libertarian, or anti-government, blog.

Top 10 sources of marine pollution

Sailors for the Sea, a nonprofit organization, estimates that Americans use around 500 million straws every day. Straws are among the top 10 sources of marine debris, according to the Ocean Conservancy, an environmental group.

Ocean Conservancy representatives welcomed American efforts to reduce plastic pollution like straw bans. But they added that an international effort was necessary.

“Science shows that more than half of the estimated eight million metric tons of plastic that enter the ocean every year from land comes from a handful of developing countries in southeast Asia, where economic growth has outpaced waste management systems,” the group said in a statement.

“Because we know that trash—and plastic in particular—can travel thousands of miles across ocean currents, we simply cannot solve the marine debris crisis alone.”

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