SeaWorld, Ikea and Royal Caribbean Are Getting Rid of Plastic Straws and Bags

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 dramatically reduce the 8 million metric tons of plastic that pollute oceans each year — “one garbage truck into the ocean every minute,” according to a 2016 report released by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The corporate activism is evidence that a fledgling 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 Girl Scouts, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, even Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who, on World Environment Day last Tuesday, announced his nation’s effort to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022. “Let us all join together to beat plastic pollution and make this planet a better place to live,” Modi urged.

His call to action apparently was not ignored. SeaWorld Entertainment announced Thursday that its 12 theme parks had removed “all single-use plastic drinking straws and single-use plastic shopping bags.” In a statement, 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.”

The same day, Royal Caribbean Cruises 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.” Guests will get wood stirrers for coffee and bamboo garnish picks as part of the drive to reduce trash.

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.” Ikea plans to take the effort a step further by introducing low-cost home solar products and even offering vegetarian food selections at its in-store cafeterias.

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