Alcohol Makers Join the Fight Against Plastic Straws

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CC BY 2.0. Ben Smith

Diageo and Pernod Ricard, which own brands such as Absolut, Bailey, Smirnoff, and Havana Club, ban straws from global affiliates, functions, and ads.

The war on straws continues to gain momentum, with pressure coming from unexpected places. Now the alcohol manufacturers have joined the fight, realizing that disposable plastic straws are terrible for the environment, non-recyclable, and are a completely unnecessary addition to mixed drinks.

Bacardi was the first company to launch its "hold the straw" campaign two years ago, but now Pernod Ricard has joined in. The French drinks group owns brands including Absolut, Ricard pastis, Chivas Regal, The Glenlivet Scotch Whiskies, Jameson Irish Whisky, Havana Club rum, Beefeater gin, and Jacob's Creek wine, and it has asked all its global affiliates to stop using non-biodegradable straws and stirrers at any company events in the future.

It has requested that its advertising agencies remove straws from all promotional images. From a company statement:

"A straw which is only used on average for 20 minutes can take more than 200 years to break down into smaller pieces and often does not fully disintegrate. We know that this type of non-biodegradable plastic is having a detrimental impact on the environment and oceans, and for us it's crucial that we play our role in helping to prevent any further damage."

UK drinks company Diageo has taken a similar stance. Diageo owns Smirnoff, Johnny Walker, Baileys, Guinness, and a chunk of champagne maker Moët Hennessy. Beverage Daily reports that, in December, the company said it was phasing out all plastic straws and stirrers from its office, events, promotions, advertising, and marketing globally. "Where it deems straws to be an important part of the enjoyment of its brands, only reusable, compostable, or biodegradable options will be used."

The recent surge in straw use is attributed to the popularity of cocktails and mixed drinks, most of which can be drunk using one's lips or paper straws. There are naysayers who complain about lipstick stains on glasses that don't come off with dishwashing (just don't wear lipstick; it's healthier for you anyways), and disintegrating paper straws that turn to mush (so drink faster!), but these seem like silly complaints in light of the plastic pollution crisis that we're currently facing.

Based on these companies' moves, it looks like we're headed in the direction of an eventual comprehensive ban on straws, which would be a great thing. Until then, it remains in the hands of us cocktail-lovers (and even water- and soda-drinkers) to tack on a single extra phrase whenever we order a drink: "No straw, please."