An increasing number of corporations and governments worldwide have been banning plastic straws and other single-use plastic products. Starbucks and Disney both announced the elimination of plastic straws at their global locations last month, and Seattle recently became the first major city to institute a blanket ban.
Paper or plastic?
Live Nation is the latest company added to the list. According to Lucy August-Perna, Manager of Venue Sustainability, US Concerts at Live Nation, the company completed its phase-out of plastic straws at all US locations by July 15 of this year. That includes 52 Live Nation amphitheaters and 50 outposts of the House of Blues restaurant and concert venue chain.
“Overall, the program has been met with enthusiasm,” August-Perna said. “We find that most fans will happily accept a fountain soda or cocktail without a straw. Guests that order one of our frozen beverages do typically request a straw, however, as these are difficult to drink without one.”
Each location operates with a straw-by-request policy with paper straws and “accessible alternatives” currently available to those that want them.
“The challenge there is that the paper straws don’t perform quite as well in frozen beverages so we are constantly on watch for better performing alternatives to make sure we can continue to deliver a great experience for our fans,” August-Perna said.
But frozen drinks aren’t the only reason someone might request a straw. These bans have faced a significant amount of backlash because they are prohibitive to people with disabilities that may require a straw with every drink.
Disability rights advocates have called for the bans to be more flexible and for companies to keep a reserve of plastic straws on hands for those who physically need one.
Finding new solutions
Paper straws are the main alternative being offered in place of plastic ones, but paper straws can get soggy and break apart, causing a choking hazard. Reusable metal straws are susceptible to extreme temperatures, and silicon straws don’t work for those with allergies.
None of the popular alternatives are as easily positionable as bending plastic straws, which is another necessity for people who need more stability and control in their drinks.
Companies are trying to navigate the best way to phase out single-use plastic to benefit the environment while still creating accessible spaces for patrons with all abilities, including at Live Nation.
“We are asking our guests that can forgo a straw to do so, while also making sure that accessible alternatives are always available on-demand for those that need them,” said August-Perna.
Live Nation is also working on a ‘Zero Waste’ initiative that reduces the company’s consumption and diverts its waste, through “recycling, composting, and donation programs.”
“Our goal is to divert at least 90% of materials away from landfill by 2020 at at least 20 venues,” said August-Perna.