Dr. Mark Penning writing at the Disney Parks Blog
Today, we’re sharing another important step in our journey of environmental stewardship. By mid-2019, The Walt Disney Company will eliminate single-use plastic straws and plastic stirrers at all owned and operated locations across the globe, amounting to a reduction of more than 175 million straws and 13 million stirrers annually.
In addition, over the next few years we’re transitioning to refillable in-room amenities in our hotels and on our cruise ships, reducing plastics in guest rooms by 80 percent. We will also reduce the number of plastic shopping bags in our owned and operated parks and on our cruise line, offering guests the option to purchase reusable bags at a nominal price. Finally, we will complete our work to eliminate polystyrene cups across our global owned and operated business. These steps are part of our long-term effort to reduce single-use plastics, and we will continue recycling and responsibly disposing single-use waste that cannot be eliminated.
I woke up this morning, read this post, and immediately tweeted some quick praise. What a great step forward, right? Starbucks & McDonalds already started the trend, and plenty of others will follow suit I’m sure. It makes perfect sense. Silly me for thinking this was simple, as a few hours of marinading led to a surprising amount of Disney fans crying foul.
You can’t tell me that you want to do everything you can to help the environment and then complain about this decision. The two are simply incongruous. What you’re actually saying is, “but I like straws”. That’s fine, so do I. But your convenience does not outweigh the well-being of wildlife and our planet.
The one argument that bares weight is accessibility. Some people don’t have the ability to drink without a straw, and I’m assuming Disney has considered this and will offer those guests accessible options. If anyone out there happens to know, reach out I’d love to know more. Starbucks is offering biodegradable straws upon request for accessibility reasons. I assume Disney will do something similar.
I’m not trying to say Disney is perfect when it comes to environmental responsibility. While eliminating plastics is a great step forward, they still have a long road ahead of them. For starters, selling thousands of Dasani bottles daily doesn't line up with this plastic commitment. I’m assuming some teams haven’t been communicating enough. It seems odd that Disney would announce this a few weeks after they announced a corporate partnership with Ziploc for handing out hundreds of plastic bags for free. If Disney is serious about this, they need to put their money where their mouth is and start cleaning up some of these contradictions.
Whether it is the Disney Conservation Fund, creating solar panels for parks power, or reducing emissions, Disney already has a pretty great reputation when it comes to environmental responsibility. There are two lenses in which you can view these aspirations. The pessimist will say this is all in an effort to make more money (through either water bottles, bag sales, etc.). The optimist would look at the people making and supporting these decisions and believe that they truly care about the planet. I tend to lean towards optimism, so I’m more on that side, but I'm sure they won't turn down the reusable bag sales.