The Sustainable Choice for Hotel Supplies

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What is the best single-use straw for your business?

November 21, 2019

Whilst our mission in life is to help you to reduce single-use, we do know that it’s not necessarily practical or affordable for all hotels to introduce reusable straws. So if you really want to kick the #plastichabit what are the best alternatives for your business?

The single-use plastic straw has become the poster child for plastic reduction campaigns all over the world and more and more cities and big businesses are pledging to ban them altogether.

More often than not, straws are used as a force of habit or convenience rather than a necessity, much like many other single-use products.

Taking 5 seconds to produce and around 5 minutes to use, straws are then discarded and destined to live in landfill for hundreds of years, or worse to pollute our oceans and natural environments, playing havoc with the creatures that live there.

Depending on the publication you read, straws are often listed in the Top 10 Items found during Beach Cleans alongside other convenience items like plastic cutlery, bottles and wet wipes.

How can your hotel become part of the solution rather than being part of the problem?

If you haven’t already done so, speak to your bar staff to discuss the best way to minimise the use of plastic straws in your hotel. Identify the challenges and give them the opportunity to suggest solutions. Use our short summaries below as inspiration for your discussions.

Remember to consider that different options could work at different bars in the hotel, for example, you would not use a glass straw at the pool bar but you might use one at a reception bar or a piano bar.

First things first, if you absolutely can’t or won’t change from single-use plastic straws, you can minimise the quantity that you get through and make a financial saving as a bonus by only offering straws on request.

Straws on request

This often requires a change of habit and can be a little challenging in the beginning. Having observed many bars with ‘straws on request’ policies, it is astonishing how many bar staff automatically still reach for the straw and pop it into drinks without a second thought! Take some time to observe your bars.

The key to making this work is to remove straws from easy reach / sight of the bar staff so that they have to walk a couple of metres to get to them, rather than having them within easy reach.

Removing them from the bar also prevents guests from helping themselves to handfuls of straws and requires that people request one. Place a number of friendly signs around the bar areas letting people know that you no longer provide straws automatically, but enabling them to feel comfortable enough to ask for one should they wish.

Remember, families with small children may prefer to use straws and some people may actually need them for medical reasons, in this case you could always ask them if they would like a straw out of courtesy so that they don’t feel uncomfortable having to request one.

What about other single-use options?

Let us give you a quick introduction to some of the more innovative single-use options!

Paper Straws

Many hotel and hospitality businesses are making the switch to paper straws. Our top tip is ‘don’t always go with the cheapest’ look for reviews that demonstrate the straw is robust and won’t go soggy 5 minutes into the drink being consumed!

Even if you make the switch from single-use plastic to single-use paper straws, be sure to stick to the on-request policy. It’s great to think about reducing all types of single-use products and it will also have a small positive impact on your bottom line.

Edible Straws

Somewhat of a novelty, edible straws are predominantly made of sugar, are around 24 calories each and last up to 40 minutes, giving your guests ample time to get through a mojito!

Obviously more costly than a single-use paper straw but certainly a conversation piece. Use them in specific drinks only to keep your costs reasonable, especially if you’re using them in an All-Inclusive Hotel. If guests pay for drinks, you could always add the cost of the straw into the cost of drink, a small price increase of €0.10 on a cocktail is unlikely to put people off, especially if you clearly market the USPs of the edible straw.

Straw Straws

Straws that are actually made from straw are also now a real alternative on the market. Quite literally made from hay, these can also be disposed of with food waste or be placed into composting.

Pasta Straws

Did you know that a certain type of pasta can also lead a double-life as a straw?

Bucatina pasta is like spaghetti but with a hole in the middle which makes it suitable as a straw. Being made from basic cooking ingredients means that straws can be disposed of with food waste or be placed into composting if you have the option.

Compostable Straws

Straws made from compostable plastic or PLA look and feel exactly like their petroleum-based counterparts, except that they are made from plant-based materials like cornstarch or tapioca.

Any reputable PLA supplier will make it clear that these products need to be ‘commercially composted‘. This means that certain temperature and humidity parameters need to be met for this to be effective. If you have a professional composting machine on-site or have food/garden waste collected for composting, they may be an alternative for your business. Check with your waste collection contractor to find out if commercially compostable facilities are available in your area.

Final Thoughts

Bear in mind, some health conditions make it difficult for people to control their bite, therefore paper straws are not always appropriate as they can often become too soggy or tear in the mouth. Most straw straws have been tested and do not create problems for people who have gluten intolerance, but this would be something to check with the supplier.

It might be wise to keep a small stock of plastic straws on-site so that you can cater for all of your guests without any of them feeling marginalised.

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Jo Hendrickx
Jo Hendrickx
Jo is a sustainability professional living in Gran Canaria with over 20 years of experience in the global tourism industry. She has worked extensively with hotels and accommodation providers around the world since 2001 helping managers to navigate the health, safety, quality and sustainability expectations of tour operators. Increasingly concerned with the impacts of unnecessary plastics, Jo was motivated to create Travel Without Plastic to support those hotels that want to make a difference.
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