8.3 billion metric tons is the equivalent of 25,000 Empire State Buildings or 822,000 Eiffel Towers. It’s also the amount of plastic that humans have produced since 1950, most of which is still present today, polluting landfills, natural landscapes and oceans, and wrecking ecological and economic harm.
With the threat of that amount of waste reaching 12 billion metric tons in 2050, major corporations — and even entire cities — are joining the movement to reduce and eliminate the prevalence of single-use plastic. The impact isn’t just ecological, but economical, too! In 2014, the United Nations Environment Assembly found that the financial damage of plastics to marine ecosystems cost $13 billion USD annually. In New York City, where the Sanitation Department cleans up over 1,700 tons of single-use plastic bags each week, more than $12.5 million is required every year to dispose of them.
As more research on the topic of plastic waste continues, a few major companies are dropping plastic in an effort to make a change, putting in place some sustainable business practices to help the problem. Here are just a few of the brands already starting the movement.
It’s no surprise that a company based in the Pacific Northwest was one of the first to announce it’s planning to phase out plastic straws, as Starbucks plans to eliminate them from its 28,000 stores by 2020, using plastic sippy cup-style lids and paper straws instead. According to Philly.com, the company has invested $10 million in developing a recyclable, compostable hot-drink container. But shifting from plastic to compostable straws brings its own additional costs.The upfront fees are worth it, however, as they’ll prevent more than one billion plastic straws from being used each year.
In 2017, Alaska Airlines used 22 million plastic straws, a number that ocean conservation group Jr. Ocean Guardians founder, Shelby O’Neil, noticed — and made sure other people noticed, too. She reached out to the airline, which announced in May that it will replace plastic straws, stirrers and toothpicks with environmentally-friendly and sustainable alternatives. Alaska Airlines will also switch from using large plastic juice boxes in favor of aluminum cans, which are easier to recycle.
Reducing the use of plastic straws is just one component of Hyatt’s “2020 Environmental Sustainability Vision,” which includes offering reusable earbuds at its North American fitness centers, as well as partnering with social enterprise Clean the World to distribute unused bath products to communities in need. Starting on September 1 of 2018, Hyatt will only have plastic straws available upon request, and will offer environmentally-friendly alternatives for other guests.
Entire U.S. Cities
Again, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Seattle became the first major U.S. city to announce it was banning the use of plastic straws. New York City introduced a bill to ban plastic straws in May, and states like Hawaii and California are considering banning the use of plastic straws entirely. Heck, in California, violating this would be punishable with fines, so it’s something to be aware of.
Lead image via Getty