Some businesses ditch plastic straws as lawmakers consider statewide ban


As lawmakers consider banning plastic straws, some businesses are already doing without them.

The Modern Honolulu in Waikiki says it’s been using biodegradable paper straws for about three months. Hilton Waikoloa Village also announced Monday that it’s switching to paper straws.

So how’s it working out?

One of the biggest concerns for the hotel and the retail industry is the cost. But the Modern Honolulu says it’s not costing the hotel more, because they don’t automatically give out the straws for every drink.

Nationwide, officials estimate that about 5 million plastic straws are used every day. Management at the Modern says the hotel used more than 600,000 of them last year.

Now they’re using the more environmentally friendly paper straws that are sturdy and feel almost like cardboard.

“The guests were very receptive. They liked how they did hold up, especially in the hot sun here and the tropical climate, so it ended up working really, really well for us,” said Aaron Garsombke, senior food and beverage manager at the Modern Honolulu.

One of the main concerns was how long will a paper straw last? The staff at the Modern actually tested them out and they say up to about an hour and a half.

In the past, every drink came with a plastic straw. Now straws are given only when a guest asks for it. Garsombke says about 25 percent of the customers ask for a straw.

“Is there an added cost of doing this?” KHON2 asked.

“It’s about net neutral, because the straws, yes are a little more expensive, however we’re using less because of the upon request only, so we do see a nice balance,” Garsombke replied.

Still, the Hawaii Restaurant Association is against the ban. A spokesman says we need to do a better job in maintaining trash receptacles so the straws don’t wind up in the environment.

Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, says the added cost will hurt small business owners the most.

“Retailers are already starting to lay off people. We’re having strong competition from online marketers and online sellers, and we can’t afford more taxes and government burdens,” she said.

Senate Bill 2285 has passed a second reading at the state legislature and is scheduled for another hearing at the Judiciary and Ways and Means committees. We’ll keep you updated on its progress.

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