Ready for some staggering facts? Up to one trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year. And unfortunately, it's estimated that only around 5 percent of those bags actually get recycled. It gets worse: According to the Ocean Conservancy, our oceans are filled with more than 150 million tons of plastic. A major contributor is the 500 million straws that Americans use daily, reports National Geographic. On a global scale, almost 300 million tons of plastic are produced annually—half of which is single-use products. In an effort to cut back and reduce their massive carbon footprints, big companies are doing away with single-use items (including straws and bags), enacting sustainability initiatives—and already making an impact. In celebration of Earth Day, here's a rundown of those companies leading the charge against plastic.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings
Last year, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings announced they were saying bon voyage to single-use plastic straws across its fleet of 26 ships. And that's not all—two of their island destinations—Great Stirrup Cay and Harvest Caye (in the Bahamas and Belize) are banning single-use plastic straws too. The impact? The elimination of more than 50 million straws across its fleet every year.
It's estimated that one million plastic bottles are sold around the world each minute. But, by 2021? Humans will have used half a trillion plastic bottles per year. Evian wants to rectify how they've contributed to the issue, reports Fast Company. By 2025, they plan on producing all their plastic bottles from 100 percent recycled plastic. To put in perspective—most bottled water companies average around 6 percent to 7 percent recycled plastic in their products.
In summer of 2018, MarketWatch reported that McDonald's plans to stock their 36,000 restaurants in 122 locations around the globe with packaging—including straws—that are from renewable, recycled, or certified sustainable sources. By 2025, all their locations will be compliant; currently, only half of McDonald's customer packaging comes from renewable, recycled or certified sources and nearly two-thirds of fiber-based packaging comes from certified or recycled sources. If you're still not sure what's recyclable, here's a list of 15 things that should never go into your recycling bin.
Not only is American Airlines banning plastic straws and stirrers on their flights, but they're also planning to phase out single-use plastic in their lounges around the world. This means the end of straws being served with drinks while plastic water bottles and flatware will no longer be offered and reusable bags will pack up to-go orders. American Airlines expects this new initiative to eliminate 71,000 pounds of plastic waste annually.
Soon you'll be able to sip your Guinness with green pride that goes beyond Irish solidarity: Diageo, the British beverage giant that bottles the classic beer, recently announced they'll be eliminating all plastic from their beer packaging and replacing it with 100 percent biodegradable—or recyclable—cardboard. They're investing $21 million to get rid of plastic ring four-pack and six-pack holders, along with all shrink-wrapping, and they'll be rolling out the changes to their other beer brands, Smithwick and Harp.
Foodservice company Sodexo provides around 13,000 cafeteria-style meals and concessions to schools, workplaces, and venues each year. They began a new sustainability plan in 2019 that eliminates 245 million single-use items at their locations. Plastic bags and stirrers are no longer available—and they're moving towards making plastic straws available by request only. By 2025, they plan to get rid of polystyrene foam items such as cups, lids, and food containers too. Just remember that not every takeout container is created the same—check out 11 things you think are recyclable but are not.
By November 2019, Red Lobster's 700 restaurants will offer plastic straws upon customer request. The hope is to offer an eco-friendlier alternative to straws by 2020. Red Lobster estimates this shift will eliminate more than 150 million plastic straws per year. This is part of the company's effort to reduce the marine plastic pollution problem that is killing millions of marine animals each year.
United Airlines has banned plastic straws and cocktail picks on their flights—and beginning in November 2019, they'll have a biodegradable bamboo alternative. United Airlines felt this was an important switch to make because of the fact that straws don't biodegrade and are nearly impossible to recycle.
You know those plastic rings that hold a six-pack of beer together? Danish brewer Carlsberg will be the first beer producer to ditch them. Instead, they'll use recyclable glue to hold their cans together. Carlsberg is eliminating 1200 tons of plastic per year—and reducing the amount of plastic used in traditional multipacks by up to 76 percent.
The Walt Disney Company
Roughly 175 million straws and 13 million stirrers are used at all Disney theme parks and resorts each year. To eliminate that waste, the Walt Disney Company will ban single-use plastic straws and stirrers by summer of 2019. Disney also plans to cut down on single-use plastic bags with reusable shopping bags that patrons can opt to buy instead. And, Disney has plans to reduce the amount of plastic in guest rooms by 80 percent.
In 2019, Nestlé, which is the world's largest packaged food company, eliminated all plastic straws in its products. As part of this commitment to reducing waste, they're also transitioning Nesquik drinks from plastic to paper containers while Nestlé Waters will increase the recycled PET content in its bottles to 50 percent in the United States. And, by 2025, Nestlé has pledged to make 100 percent of ALL its product's packaging recyclable or reusable.
By 2020, Starbucks plans to eliminate all plastic straws from their 28,000 stores. Now, how will that affect customers with a hankering for iced coffee or tea? In lieu of straws, all cold beverages will use a recyclable, strawless plastic lid. And for frothier drinks like Frappuccinos, which are straw-dependent? Starbucks will offer straws (made via materials like paper and compostable plastic)—but only by request. They estimate their plans will eliminate more than one billion plastic straws each year.
Last year, Hyatt announced plans to eliminate single-use plastic straws and drink picks, making then only available by request at their properties. Hyatt is also offering "eco-friendly alternatives" for other products. Since 2008, Hyatt has collaborated with Clean the World, a non-profit that collects used soap and shampoo products from hotels, recycles them, and then donates them to communities in need.
Sea World Entertainment
SeaWorld Entertainment is on a mission to protect animals and habitats worldwide—and cemented their dedication to the cause in 2018. They eliminated single-use plastic straws and bags from all 12 of its theme parks. It's estimated that eight million metric tons of plastics enter the ocean each year.
Method Cleaning Products
Since plastics make up almost 13 percent of the municipal solid waste generated, and the largest plastic waste contributors are containers and packaging—cleaning brand Method is all about reducing the carbon footprint of their products. A big step is making all their 1-PET plastic bottles, including handwash, dish soap, and spray cleaners, from 100 percent PCR (post-consumer resin, which has about a 70 percent lower carbon footprint than virgin plastic).
The power bar company is a trailblazer in its commitment to zero waste. On Earth Day 2001, they made the switch to recycled paper. Today, they no longer shrink-wrap boxes of their bars—and the boxes themselves are made from 100 percent recycled paperboard.
Up to 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year and only about 5 percent of them are recycled. To make a dent, approximately 2800 Kroger-owned grocery stores across the country will do away with packing up their customer's groceries in plastic bags. Seattle based Quality Food Centers (QFC) is the first Kroger owned store that's already put this plan into effect with the other stores right behind.
At the start of 2019, Marriott started phasing out plastic straws from their London hotels—and announced they'll completely eliminate plastic straws and stirrers from all their properties worldwide by the end of 2019. With more than 6,500 locations, Marriott estimates they use around 1 billion straws and 250 million stirrers per year.
Delta Airlines is on track to reduce its plastic waste by an estimated 300,000 pounds a year. They'll remove a variety of single-use plastic items—including stir sticks, wrappers, utensils, and straws—from planes and lounges. By mid-2019, bamboo straws will available for cold drinks, and birch wood stirrers for hot drinks and Delta One's Tumi kits will also no longer be wrapped in plastic.
In 2007, after estimating they were distributing 150 million plastic bags a year, Whole Foods became one of the first grocery store chains to eliminate a plastic bag option, reports the New York Times. That's when they started offering customers a choice between recycled paper or reusable bags. After a trial run in Toronto and Texas stores, the no plastic bag ban took effect at all Whole Food locations on Earth Day 2008.
In 2008, IKEA was also a leader in the elimination of plastic bags. They rolled out a policy so customers could purchase an IKEA blue bag for $.59 or use their own. 92% of Ikea shoppers choose reusable bags over plastic ones—and the policy is still in effect today.
Since 2012, Ethique has changed the beauty industry by being the first zero-waste beauty brand—their shampoo, conditioner, and body wash aren't packaged in traditional plastic bottles. Instead, the products are made in "bar" form and arrive packaged in cardboard boxes. You simply add water to use—then recycle or compost the packaging. With 80 billion bottles from shampoo and conditioner used around the world every year, Ethique has prevented over 3 million bottles, jars, and tubes from being made. They aim to take that number to 10 million by 2025. Looking for other ways to help? Here are 30 ways to recycle just about anything.