Disney to eliminate plastic straws from all locations

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

Accessibility advocates are calling for these plastic straw bans to be flexible and not so absolute. Pic: ©GettyImages/jon11
Accessibility advocates are calling for these plastic straw bans to be flexible and not so absolute. Pic: ©GettyImages/jon11

Related tags Plastic Environmental impact Soft drinks

The Walt Disney Company has announced it will be the latest major corporation to cut down on plastic waste by phasing out single-use straws, joining the ranks of Starbucks and McDonald’s. Disney will phase them out of its global theme parks by 2019.

Disney is referring to the straw ban as the “next step in its commitment to environmental stewardship.”​ It says the move will eliminate more than 175 million straws and 13 million stirrers every year.

Disney has also announced other plastic-reduction plans. In Disney hotels and on cruise ships, it will transition to refillable in-room amenities and also work to replace plastic shopping bags in its parks with reusable ones.

“Eliminating plastic straws and other plastic items are meaningful steps in our long-standing commitment to environmental stewardship,”​ said Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products.

“These new global efforts help reduce our environmental footprint, and advance our long-term sustainability goals.”

The announcement did not mention any planned replacements for the plastic straws. In contrast, Starbucks’ straw ban announcement ​ earlier this month detailed new cup lids that won’t require the use of straws, as well as the introduction of paper straws.

The recent popularity of plastic straw bans has won praise from environmental advocacy groups, but also criticism from accessibility advocates. Many disabled people rely on positionable, single-use plastic straws and are unable to use the replacements offered, if any.

Erin Vallely of the Center for Disability Rights said, "For many individuals with mobility and strength issues, they cannot lift cups high enough to drink from them. Some individuals with poor motor coordination cannot safely hold a drink steady without spilling it. Certain medicines must also be taken via straw. Bendable plastic straws allow individuals to nourish themselves and avoid spilling things on themselves, and others."

Accessibility advocates are calling for these plastic straw bans to be flexible and not so absolute. After Seattle became the first major US city to institute a ban this month, a spokesman for Seattle Public Utilities found that more than a dozen Seattle restaurant chains didn’t have a reserve of plastic straws on hand for those with disabilities, even though the law includes a waiver allowing it.

Disney says it creates inclusive and accessible spaces for people with disabilities at all of its theme parks. The Walt Disney World website includes extensive FAQ boards regarding all aspects of accommodating disabled people when traveling to the parks, around the parks, on the rides and at hotels, but includes no mention of assistance with eating and drinking.

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We should fade out single-use plastic straws

Posted by Priscilla,

It's great to hear that Disney is coming to the stage of eliminating single-use plastic straws. In this way we are able help protect the environment where companies are trying to encourage customers to use alternative plastic straws which includes stainless steel, bamboo or paper straw. Overall, I think not only McDonald's, Starbucks and Disney should have this concept, but also other companies such as KFC, Hungry Jacks etc.

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Mismanaged Plastic Waste

Posted by Dr. Thomas M. Wnorowski,

The top five nations guilty of mismanaging plastic waste are China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. The United States is number twenty, far below the others. Plastic straws account for a small percentage of such pollution. The full report is available here: http://www.earthday.org/wp-content/uploads/Plastic-Pollution-Primer-and-Action-Toolkit.pdf

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