Hospitality Industry Embraces Self-Imposed Plastic Straw Ban:
But Alternatives Must be Made Available
With hospitality giants like Marriott International, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hyatt Hotels Corp. and others embracing the movement to become more environmentally conscious and eliminate plastic straws either by the end of this year or next year, it looks like F&B gurus in the industry will be seeking alternatives to replace the long-used drinking apparatus. The numbers tell the story behind this momentum: at its current rate of usage, the United States will go through around $600 million worth of single-use straws every year by 2022, according to The Freedonia Group, an international business research company.
The general consensus among hotel brands is to still provide straws upon request, which would consist of a paper, bamboo, or other kind of biodegradable option.
"There is a greater level of awareness these days to reduce overall consumption of plastic," said Ken Taylor, vice president strategic development, MarkeTeam(cq) Inc., a Mission Viejo, Calif.-based multi-faceted agency that works with the food, beverage, and hospitality industries. "But, there has to be an alternative offered, particularly for individuals with disabilities who need a straw to be able to drink."
While the issue of accommodating those with disabilities is extremely important and alternatives must be offered, more often than not straws are a convenience for the drinking public, noted Scott Gingerich, senior vice president of restaurants and bars for San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels & Restaurant.
“Being environmentally friendly isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have and we’re always evolving our operational best practices. Right now, we’re proactively working on ways to replace single-use plastic straws with compostable or metal straws and/or serve drinks without straws all together," Gingerich said.
He added that several Kimpton hotels, restaurants and bars are already 100 percent plastic straw-free, and some have switched to paper straws. The 63-property brand will have plastic straws removed by the end of this year, available only upon request.
Another potential issue with offering an alternative is that costs could go up, for instance, if paper straws are used. "If you have five hotels, versus 500, you may see an incrementally larger cost with paper straws," Taylor said. "Costs will need to be passed on in some way; that $6 cocktail may wind up now being $7."
Raleigh, N.C.-based Concord Hospitality, which has 102 hotels in its portfolio, in full support of the plastic straw ban and will eliminating the use of this item by 2019, said Dean Wendel, corporate director of food and beverage.
"We will move toward the use of some kind of compostable alternative, like possibly bamboo or wood, which we will offer upon request," Wendel said. "We've come to understand how horrible the impact of hundreds of millions of plastic straws can have on the environment, and we need to find the right product going forward."
Although Wendel does not yet know what kind of material will be offered as an alternative to plastic. The company is researching its options and weighing in the cost factor as well.
Taylor predicted that there could be other kinds of plastic items eliminated down the road as well.
"The hotel industry will adjust and will have to deal with the fact that other items, such as plastic bags, will not be able to used in the future," he said.