Virgin Australia has removed plastic straws and stirrers from its planes and lounges as it joins a corporate trend to reduce the use of environmentally damaging single-use utensils.
Paper straws and bamboo stirrers are now available inflight and on the ground in a move Virgin says will see more than 260,000 plastic straws and 7.5 million plastic stirrers a year removed from its operations.
“This is part of our focus to improve the sustainability of the packaging we use as a business and to reduce the amount of single-use plastic across our inflight and lounge offerings,’’ Virgin general manager of group sustainability Rob Wood said in a statement.
“As an airline, we have a responsibility to contribute to sustainable initiatives that will benefit the environment and removing plastic straws and stirrers is an important step in the right direction.
“We know there are still improvements to be made, but we are committed to continuing to look for ways to improve the environmental footprint of our operations.”
Virgin is not the only airlines to phase out plastic straws and stirrers.
American Airlines announced in July that it would make a similar move and start moving to eco-friendly flatware in its lounges.
The changes at the US giant will hit flights in November and will eliminate more than 71,000 pounds (32,205 kilos) of plastic per year.
Plastic straws are under fire globally because of the damage plastic is doing to the environment.
The US uses more than 500 million plastic straws a day and ocean life is particularly vulnerable to the impact of what has become a ubiquitous part of modern life.
The small size of straws size makes them difficult to recycle and they often find their way to the ocean where they contribute to an increasing problem with microplastics.
Strawlessocean.org estimates that a failure to act now will mean there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.
It points to research by Australia’s CSIRO that shows 71 percent of seabirds and 30 percent of turtles have been found with plastics in their stomach.
Plastic straws are also among the top 10 items found during beach clean-ups.