Hospitality giant Whitbread has announced that it will begin removing plastic straws from its Costa Coffee stores and Premier Inn hotels from November 2018 in a bid to slash its plastic waste output.

The move will see around 45 million plastic straws removed from Costa’s 3,800 UK cafes each year, according to Whitbread, with customers set to be offered recyclable paper alternatives from next month.

The paper straws will also be rolled out across Whitbread’s estate of 680 Premier Inn locations in November – a move the company claims will eliminate the use of 12 million plastic straws annually.

“Following our announcement earlier this year, we are delighted to be introducing a sustainable alternative to plastic straws – removing 45 million plastic straws from our stores as part of our ongoing commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle,” Costa’s managing director for the UK and Ireland Jason Cotta said.

“We removed all plastic straws from our condiment units last year as a first step to reducing waste. This change alone reduced the use of straws across the business by 27%, so we are confident that replacing them with a non-plastic alternative will have a significant impact on reducing the consumption of single-use plastic – and are hoping to see others do the same.”

The straw phase-out follows on from Costa’s commitment to recycle the equivalent of its entire annual sales of takeaway cups to drive cross-industry collaboration on coffee cup recycling. Announced in April, the pledge will see Costa recycle up to half a billion coffee cups each year – at a financial cost to the business.

The last straw

In related news, milkshake brand Shmoo this week unveiled plans to phase-out plastic straws and replace them with biodegradable paper alternatives by the end of 2018.

The move from the company, which supplies drink ingredients as well as cups, lids and straws to cafes, catering firms and schools across the UK, follows on from its commitment to use at least 50% recycled PET in the manufacturing of its lids and cups.

The announcements from Whitbread and Shmoo come shortly after the UK Government confirmed that it would introduce a string of policies aimed at banning the sale and distribution of plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds by 2020.

Ministers intend to introduce a ban on the sale of the items between October 2019 and October 2020, subject to a consultation with business and the general public, it was confirmed on Monday (22 October).

The Government believes that such a move will help to eliminate the 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds sent to landfill in the UK annually from the nation’s waste streams.

Sarah George

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