Each year, another 8 million metric tons of plastic pollute the ocean. By 2050, scientists predict that ocean plastic will outweigh all of the ocean’s fish. In some places, the garbage has formed giant patches, like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which covers an area twice the size of Texas and includes an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of garbage. This is hardly a new problem, but it was recently thrust into public consciousness when, in 2015, a video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck up its nose went mega-viral. Further adding fuel to the fire was the news of two whales that were found dead with massive amounts of plastic in their stomachs.
The reaction to these events was swift, and in many cases, decisive, with organizations everywhere announcing their intentions to ban plastic straws. Interestingly, several theme parks were at the forefront of this effort:
In 2018, Royal Caribbean announced that by the start of 2019 all 50 ships in their fleet would be free of plastic straws. A year prior to the announcement, the company had already transitioned to a “straws upon request” policy. In 2019 any guests that request a straw will receive a paper one. They further plan to remove other plastic items like bags, cups and condiment packages by 2020.
Given its commitment to ocean conservation, it’s no surprise that SeaWorld banned plastic straws as well as plastic bags in its 12 parks, including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Discovery Cove and more. SeaWorld has long been at the forefront of conservation efforts, educating people about the effects of single-use plastics on marine life and coming out in support of California’s Proposition 67, which banned single-use plastic and paper shopping bags state-wide. In fact, many SeaWorld parks hadn’t offered plastic straws for years prior to the official announcement of the ban; the announcement simply solidified what they had already been doing. It seems appropriate that it didn’t take a viral moment to elicit action from SeaWorld on this particular issue. SeaWorld is the largest marine life rescue organization in the United States, which means they are the ones actually seeing the tragic effects of ocean pollution every day.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Most of the businesses that banned plastic straws did so recently in the wake of public outcry brought on by the turtle video. Disney is one of those bandwagon companies, announcing they would eliminate single-use plastic straws and stirrers at all Disney parks by mid-2019. However, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a different story; plastic straws have been banned there since the park’s opening in 1998. They take the ban seriously too, security’s policy is to confiscate any plastic straws they find while performing bag checks at the park.