A win for the environment: Virgin Australia is the latest airline to ban plastic straws

Virgin Australia is the latest airline to announce plans to remove plastic straws and stirrers from its inflight and Lounge operations. The move will see more than 260,000 plastic straws and 7.5 million plastic stirrers a year removed from operations and replaced with paper straws and bamboo stirrers.

Virgin Australia General Manager of Group Sustainability Rob Wood said that introducing paper straws and bamboo stirrers, although being small changes, will have a positive impact both in the air and on the ground.

“We are proud to have eliminated plastic straws and stirrers from our services. This is part of our focus to improve the sustainability of the packaging we use as a business and to reduce the amount of single-use plastic across our inflight and Lounge offerings. As an airline, we have a responsibility to contribute to sustainable initiatives that will benefit the environment and removing plastic straws and stirrers is an important step in the right direction. We know there are still improvements to be made, but we are committed to continuing to look for ways to improve the environmental footprint of our operations”.

While this is a first for the aviation industry in Australia, Virgin Australia is just the latest airline around the world to implement this environmental plan, with many others already going straw free:

In Jul-2018, Alaska Airlines introduced an initiative to replace “single-use, non-recyclable, plastic” stir straws and citrus picks with sustainable alternatives in its airport lounges and on all domestic and international commercial services. American Airlines also announced it would eliminate straws from its lounges and will instead serve drinks with a biodegradable, eco-friendly straw and wood stir stick, taking the initiative one step further and also transition to all eco-friendly flatware within lounges. American’s plans will eliminate more than 71,000 pounds of plastic p/a with these changes.

As for airports, London City Airport announced way back in Feb-2018 that plastic straws would no longer available in any of its F&B outlets, and have been replaced with biodegradable paper straws, which are available upon request. London City Airport environmental compliance executive Lewis Chenery commented that the airport is “committed to increasing our recycling rate to 70% by the end of this year”. Approximately 100,000 plastic straws were previously distributed at the airport p/a.

Why is this such an issue?

According to ‘The Last Straw’, a campaign designed to reduce the use of the plastic straws in venues around Australia:

“Mass plastic use is a huge problem that contributes massive amounts to landfill and has a negative impact on ocean eco systems. Plastic straws are an unnecessary convenience with a big impact. Single use plastics, especially straws, are having an adverse affect on our world, and it’s time to do something about it.

There is an alarming disconnect between what’s in our hands and where it comes from, or what it means for the future. A plastic straw in my gin might seem innocent enough, but multiply that by the billions of people that buy billions of drinks across the world every single day, and you start to get an idea of the scale of the problem we’re looking at. That straw I threw away after stirring my drink will outlive me and everyone else on this planet. Unless we do something to change.”