Increasing numbers of businesses are removing plastic drinking straws from their operations as efforts to stem the “tide” of plastic waste gather pace.
Marriott International, London City Airport and Eurostar are among the latest companies announcing measures to remove single-use plastic straws from hotels, food and drink outlets and train carriages.
They join chains including All Bar One, JD Wetherspoon, Costa Coffee, Pizza Express and Wagamama in phasing out the throwaway items from their venues, with many offering biodegradable alternatives.
Iceland has ended sales of own-brand plastic straws while organisations as varied as the Scotch Whisky Association and the Natural History Museum have also rejected their use.
The moves come amid increasing calls from environmentalists for businesses to “ditch” plastic straws, which can harm marine wildlife such as turtles and fish.
An online campaign, Refuse The Straw, calls on people to reject straws and start drinking from the glass.
Green campaigners also want wider efforts to crack down on rising levels of plastic waste, from tiny shreds to drinks bottles and fishing gear, which is polluting the oceans and coasts, an issue most recently highlighted in the BBC’s Blue Planet II series.
The latest Great British Beach Clean by the Marine Conservation Society revealed rising levels of throwaway food and drink utensils including cutlery, trays and straws – up almost a quarter (23%) in a year.
More than 5,000 such items were picked up in the clean-up event in September, across 339 beaches around the UK.
Dr Laura Foster, Marine Conservation Society head of clean seas, said: “A straw is only used for a matter of minutes but leaves a legacy that may last centuries in the environment.
“We’ve found thousands of straws at our beach cleans, and millions of people have seen film footage of the harm they do to wildlife such as marine turtles.
“We urge businesses to ditch the straw, and ask everyone to join the Marine Conservation Society’s call to stop the plastic tide.”
Welcoming the latest moves, Greenpeace UK ocean campaigner Louise Edge said: “The speed at which leading businesses are ditching plastic straws shows throwaway plastic is quickly losing its social licence.
“Straws are among the worst examples of the use-once-and-bin plastic threatening our oceans.
“They can do real harm to marine life, whether they get stuck up a turtle’s nose or in a fish’s mouth. In most cases, we can simply do without straws, and, whenever they’re genuinely needed, there are good alternatives made of less harmful materials.
“Now it’s vital to keep this momentum going so we can start tackling the vast array of single-use plastics in all venues, restaurants, and supermarkets.”
Announcing the plans to remove plastic straws from its operations, Marriott International’s Michel Miserez said: “Our UK hotels used 300,000 straws last year.
“By removing plastic straws from our hotels in the UK we are making a small but significant step in playing our part in reducing the volume of plastic that damages our environment and wildlife.”