MGM Resorts says eliminating straws has caused little stir

An exterior view of the MGM Grand on the Las Vegas Strip Dec. 26, 2017.

Somewhere this week at one of MGM’s casinos on the Strip, a larger-than-life tortoise made of beverage straws is in the employee dining hall to remind employees about plastic waste.

The turtle, made of 250,000 red and black plastic straws, represents the daily straw usage at MGM’s 400 restaurants, bars and other venues that serve drinks.

MGM Resorts International recently announced its intention to cut back on straw usage to reduce plastic waste and help protect the environment.

Instead of automatically putting a straw in beverages, MGM now provides them only upon customer request at its 17 U.S. casinos. That goes for stirring and drinking straws.

“We need to be mindful of the everyday and even more trivial impact we have on the environment,” said Cindy Ortega, MGM’s chief sustainability officer. “When you put these small items together, it’s not trivial.”

Straws are one of the most commonly littered items around the world and are among the top 15 items found in ocean trash, according to a 2015 study from University of California, Santa Barbara. Plastic can take hundreds of years to decompose.

Ortega and Craig Schoettler, the company’s executive director of food and beverage, said the change, which MGM started rolling out in May, has gone smoothly with customers and servers. Employees received training about how to explain the change.

With many drinks, especially higher-end cocktails, customers prefer sipping directly from the glass “to experience the full aroma of the drink,” Schoettler said.

“The buy-in from the guests has been almost immediate,” Schoettler said. “Most people that have initial feeling of wanting a straw have that feeling dissolved when they’re explained why we’re doing this initiative.”