Virgin Australia Airlines, the country’s second largest airline, is banning plastic straws and stirrers – two items that are among those most difficult to recycle. The non-biodegradable straws and stirrers will be banned from all in-flights as well as lounge operations and will be replaced by alternatives made from environmentally-friendly materials. According to the company, the move will save more than 260,000 plastic straws and 7.5 million plastic stirrers a year.

The airline’s move was announced in a post on Virgin’s official website, and the company emphasizes that the new decision highlights its commitment to sustainable solutions. The alternatives to plastic straws and stirrers that will be introduced to flights and operations will be made out of paper and bamboo, both biodegradable and more sustainable materials.

“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,” said Rob Wood, Virgin Australia General Manager of Group Sustainability. “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.”

Although focusing on the items in question may seem like a small change, Wood emphasized that the switch to biodegradable alternatives will have a positive impact on the environment nonetheless. Plastic straws may be small, but they are targeted for a reason which, ironically, is their size – small and light items like straws are not big enough to be properly treated during sorting processes, and there are not many facilities specialized in recycling these objects.

In recent months, a growing number of companies have introduced changes targeting plastics and reducing the amount of non-biodegradable waste they generate. Most of such businesses are replacing plastic straws with alternatives made from other materials while continuing to offer plastic ones to people who need them for medical reasons. It is estimated that Americans alone use over 500 million plastic straws a day – and, because of the recycling issue, it is almost all of these straws that end up in landfills or travel to the ocean!

To find out how you can help the planet by reducing the amount of plastic you use, check out One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign!

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