Less than two weeks after a pilot whale died off Thailand with 80 plastic bags in its stomach, three major companies — SeaWorld, Ikea and Royal Caribbean — have vowed to remove plastic straws and bags from their properties.
The companies are now linked to a host of businesses, governments and others across the world that have joined an effort to reduce the 8 million metric tons of plastic that reach and pollute oceans each year — “one garbage truck into the ocean every minute,” said a 2016 report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The corporate activism is evidence that a movement to ban plastic straws, which sprang from outrage over plastic’s impact on the environment and animals, continues to stir.
Movement organizers have recruited everyone from the Girl Scouts to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who, on World Environment Day last Tuesday, announced his nation’s effort to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022.
On Tuesday, Brady posted a video to Instagram saying “I’m out on single-use plastic straws.” He then asked three friends “make a video about what you are committing to do to #beatplasticpollution and tag 3 friends to do the same!”
His call to action apparently did not fall on deaf ears. SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. announced Thursday that its 12 theme parks had removed “all single-use plastic drinking straws and single-use plastic shopping bags.” Interim Chief Executive John Reilly called the move “a testament to our mission to protect the environment, the ocean and animals … which are currently threatened by unprecedented amounts of plastic pollution.”
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. also said its fleet of 50 ships “will ring in 2019 free of plastic straws.” That includes luxury liners under all of its brands, including Celebrity Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises and Royal Caribbean International. “For over a year now, RCL ships have begun implementing a straws upon request policy,” a statement said. “That program will be taken a step further by the start of 2019, when guests requesting a straw will receive a paper straw instead of a plastic one.”
By 2020, Ikea said, its stores will no longer hand out plastic bags or straws as part of an effort to become “people and planet positive” within 10 years. Lena Pripp-Kovac, the furniture giant’s sustainability manager, said that moving forward, Ikea “will design all products from the very beginning to be repurposed, repaired, reused, resold and recycled.” And Ikea plans to take the effort further by introducing low-cost home solar products and even offering vegetarian food selections at its in-store cafeterias.
On July 1, Seattle will become the largest U.S. city to cut out all plastic straws and eating utensils in restaurants, while the California General Assembly is weighing legislation to ban straws and plastic bags statewide.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has said her government will introduce a ban on the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton swabs throughout the United Kingdom. The European Commission has proposed rules banning 10 single-use plastic products throughout the European Union.
In Europe, where the push for environmental sustainability and conservation movement is stronger than in the United States, Starbucks agreed recently to phase out all plastic straws and cutlery. Starbucks has offered a $10 million grant to any group or individual with a workable idea for an environmentally friendly cup.