Comment: The Final Straw

Comment: The Final Straw
Published: 8 October 2018 - 8:18 a.m.
By: Shishira Sreenivas

Straws are light to hold, easy to use, and toss away after finishing just one drink within minutes. But, the small lightweight tubes that are often made out of plastic and for a single-use purpose. They are non-biodegradable and are finding their way to the ocean and wreaking havoc to sea creatures, plants, and Earth in general.

To offer some numerical insight, in the UK, at least 4.4 billion plastic straws are thrown away annually after a single use. Bangkok-based Minor Hotel’s Anantara and Avani brands estimate that their hotels across Asia used a staggering 2.49 million straws in 2017 according to a report by National Geographic while AccorHotels estimated 4.2 million straws used in the US and Canada last year.

In the hotel industry, the challenges of implementing sustainability practices and establishing an all-around eco-friendly environment, poses an enormous task, especially when it concerns the impact on the bottom line.

But the tide seems to be slowly shifting in the last couple of years with major hotel operators jumping on the positive bandwagon and purging single-use plastic straws across properties. It’s definitely a step in the right direction but let’s all admit, the resource-intensive hotel industry, especially here in the Middle East, has a long road ahead in the fight against plastic. And every plastic straw counts.

Marriott International has revealed a plan to remove the disposable straws as well as plastic stirrers from its more than 6,500 properties across 30 brand worldwide. This massive move, Marriott reveals, will eliminate more than 1 billion straws and a quarter billion stirrers.

Anantara Hotels & Resorts is going a step further and declaring an absolute ban (see pg 10). Starting this month, the operator will abolish the straws across all its properties across the globe. But besides straws, Anantara has also made the decision to forego plastic packaging of dry amenities such as toothbrushes with compostable paper and biodegradable paper straw. This move comes as the operator is attempting to embed the principles of sustainability within its ethos and align their services to better serve its eco-conscious guests.

Anantara group director of sustainability & conservation John Roberts said: “Each single-use plastic straw takes hundreds of years to break down and scientists predict there may soon be more straws than fish in the oceans by 2050.

Anantara guests are forward thinking and sustainable-minded and want to continue to enjoy the beautifully lush surroundings for which Anantara is famous for generations to come,” he adds.

While such drastic moves from top players is inspiring many other operators and owners to join the movement, to make any significant dent and ultimately cork the growing problem, it will require collective effort and action to guarantee long-term success.

Sure, plastic is cost-effective, but finding and investing in alternatives such as paper, bamboo or metal straws will ultimately benefit the communities hotels serve, and most imporatntly, Mother Nature.

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