French alcoholic beverage conglomerate Pernod Ricard has announced plans to ban the use of non-biodegradable plastic straws and stirrers across its entire global business.

After halting the use of these plastic products at the company’s own events at the end of 2017, Pernod Ricard is now asking affiliated brands, such as Havana Club rum, Absolute Vodka, Campo Vieja wine and Jameson Whiskey, to also ban their use at individual company events.

Pernod Ricard’s vice-president for sustainability and responsibility, Vanessa Wright, explained the reasoning behind implementing this ban, saying: “The history of Pernod Ricard and our values are intrinsically linked to social responsibility and care … We know that this type of non-biodegradable plastic is having a detrimental impact on the environment and oceans, and for us it’s crucial that we play our role in helping to prevent any further damage.”

Pernod Ricard’s long history of commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility began when one of the founders of the conglomerate, Paul Ricard, establishing Paul Ricard Oceanographic Institute in 1966. This was driven by his acute awareness that the Mediterranean Sea was under threat and his resolve that attention needed to be incited so that marine life could be better protected. The company remains faithful to continuing and supporting the work of the Institute.

The company has also been a member of the UN Global Compact since 2003. Pernod Ricard has complied with the Global Compact’s requirements for environmental sustainability, alongside the other nine principles.

In 2016, the conglomerate committed itself to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and selected 14 of those goals where they saw their impact as being the greatest. Among the goals they chose were good health and well-being, clean water and sanitation and life below water.

The company’s ban on the use of non-biodegradable plastic straws and stirrers for itself as well as its global affiliates is part of the conglomerate’s 2020 Roadmap initiative. This initiative includes a commitment to reduce the amount that the conglomerate and its affiliates send to landfill from 930 tonnes to zero by 2020.

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Current research shows that non-biodegradable straws are the fifth most common item of rubbish. They can take up to 200 years to breakdown, and often never fully disintegrate. They also leach plastic chemicals into the environment. Whereas biodegradable straws are made from products such as starch-based resin, paper and bamboo and thus can break down fully without 180 days. Although currently biodegradable straws are slightly more expensive than non-biodegradable plastic straws – one unit of biodegradable straws cost approximately 1.12p compared to 0.9p for plastic straws – this is not a large difference, and as more large companies move towards using biodegradable alternatives, it is likely that these price margins will decrease further.

This move by the French conglomerate follows the decision of other major beverage brands, such as Diageo, JD Wetherspoon and Bacardi, to stop using non-biodegradable plastic products and seek to use reusable, compostable or biodegradable alternatives.