Ocean Pollution: Hawaiian Hotels Will No Longer Offer Guests Plastic Straws

Few things are better than sipping a cocktail on the beach, but at two hotels in Hawaii, guests might have to enjoy their drinks without a straw. The Modern Honolulu and the Hilton Waikoloa Village on Hawaii both committed to eliminating plastic straw use altogether for environmental reasons.

Each day in the United States, an average of 500 million straws are used, totaling billions of straws each year, according to Eco-Cycle. The plastic straws aren't easily recyclable and frequently end up in the ocean where marine animals are ingesting them.

Sometimes the straws end up washed up on the beautiful beaches that bring tourists to the islands in the first place, said Hawaii State Senator Karl Rhoads. They're actually one of the most common debris items found during beach cleanups.

beach plastic
Plastic straws are some of the most common plastic debris found washed up on beaches. NOAA

The Democrat who serves as chair of the Committee on Water and Land introduced a bill to the Hawaii Senate to ban the distribution and sale of plastic straws in the Aloha State. The bill is dead for now, but Rhoads said he thinks he would introduce it again. "We don't really need straws for the most part," he said. For those who do need straws, there are paper alternatives.

A study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that roughly 90 percent of seabirds today have likely ingested some type of plastic. Additionally, estimates for the percentage of green turtles that have consumed plastic are around 50 percent, according to a study in Conservation Biology.

The Modern Honolulu and the Hilton Waikoloa Village both announced in the past two months that plastic straws would no longer be available at the hotels. More than 612,000 plastic straws were used at the Modern in 2017, before the hotel switched to paper straws that are now only available upon request, said a release from the hotel. The hotel hopes to cut straw use by thousands, down to about 80 percent of the total it used in 2017.

Nearly 200,000 more plastic straws were used at the Hilton Waikoloa Village than at The Modern in 2017, said a release from the hotel. That brings the total number of plastic straws used between the two to more than 1.4 million.

The two hotels are the only establishments Rhoads has heard of that have elected to completely eliminate plastic straws, he said. He added that he was thrilled to hear the news. "I think it's a good way to start getting a grip on plastic everywhere and plastic in the water in particular," he said.

The move away from plastic straws is for the benefit of the environment, but also the guests. "With making a small change in removing plastic straws on the property, The Modern Honolulu hopes to inspire guests and businesses on the island and around the world to act responsibly while they stay with us and after they leave our shores," said Douglas Rucker, managing director of the hotel, in a statement.

As for the little umbrellas that sometimes come in cocktails, they're fine for now.

cocktail with plastic straw
Two hotels in Hawaii announced that they will no longer offer guests plastic straws with their drinks. phhai2700/Flickr