Recently, there has been a growing movement for people to give up the use of plastic straws in an effort to protect the environment and help save the oceans. Companies like Starbucks and American Airlines, and cities like Seattle and San Francisco, are all taking the initiative by making institutional or legislative changes to discontinue the use of or ban plastic straws. Now the most magical place on Earth is taking up the cause. The Walt Disney Company has announced that it will eliminate single-use plastic straws in all of its parks worldwide, including Walt Disney World, in order to help protect the environment.
This isn't some far off aspirational goal either from the theme park giant. The Walt Disney Company said that all plastic straws and stirrers will be gone by the middle of 2019, according to WFTV9. As you can probably imagine, the hyper popular and frequented parks sell a lot of drinks, and thus a lot of straws get thrown away. Disney says that this move will reduce that waste by 175 million straws each year. Plastic straws are far from the only plastic waste created in Disney's theme parks, and to that end, Disney will also reduce the number of plastic shopping bags in its parks and eliminate polystyrene (Styrofoam) cups in its businesses. The company will also transition to refillable in-room amenities in its many hotels and cruise ships. That will reduce plastics in guest rooms by 80 percent.
This is a huge move for Walt Disney World and the other parks, but not one that is surprising given the company's history and ethos towards conservation. Obviously the nature of the business is one where there is a lot of waste, but Disney has often taken steps to be more environmentally friendly. Driving in to the parks now, you might see the massive solar field (in the shape of a giant hidden Mickey of course) that helps reduce the use of fossil fuels. Earlier this year in fact, Disney announced construction of a new solar field that will provide enough energy to power two of the four theme parks at the Walt Disney World resort. One of those four theme parks is Disney's Animal Kingdom, which is basically a giant monument encouraging conservation and has exclusively used paper straws, in lieu of plastic, for years.
Now, as is the case with all major issues, there are no easy answers. This move by Disney is not a cure all and it has some unintended consequences. Using paper straws or just drinking from the cup will be fine for most people, but for those with disabilities who need a straw, many of the environmentally friendly alternatives don't work for them for a variety of reasons. So this move could negatively impact them. Also, on a macro level, eliminating plastic straws entirely will make little difference percentage wise to the amount of trash we put in the environment. It is more of a symbolic change than a substantive one.
Even though eliminating all the plastic straws in the world won't do much, change has to start somewhere, and plastic straws are a gateway plastic that people can easily give up that could lead to greater changes that make bigger differences down the road. This move by Disney will introduce people to an idea that people can take with them once they leave.