Sarah Feldberg
Sarah Feldberg

Order a cocktail at Aria's Alibi Ultra Lounge, and you may feel like something's missing. Ice, liquor, bitters, mixer ... the only thing lacking from your glass is a little piece of plastic: a straw. 

That's not an omission on the bartender's part. That's a reflection of a pilot program launched this month at Aria and Mandalay Bay and may be expanded to MGM Resorts' other Las Vegas properties depending on its reception. 

The Straw Reduction Initiative is taking aim at an issue that's been thrust into the national spotlight recently and has become a darling of environmentalists, civic leaders and even the business community: plastic straw pollution. 

According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, Americans use hundreds of millions of plastic straws each day, dropping them into sodas, waters, iced coffees and cocktails, and then throwing them away with little thought as to where the tiny plastic tubes end up. Many of them apparently land in our oceans, where they can be mistaken for food by sea creatures or wash onto beaches. 

Moves away from plastic straws have become increasingly popular, with campaigns encouraging people to just say no to single-use plastic straws and cities and companies beginning to ban the sipping utensils. In February, the city of Malibu, California, barred restaurants and other businesses from giving out plastic straws, stirrers and other utensils, and a bill introduced to the New York City Council last week would take similar action, prohibiting food- or drink-service establishments from offering single-use plastic straws. Even McDonald's is getting in on the issue, with shareholders voting last week on whether the fast-food behemoth should stop providing plastic straws to its customers.

In Las Vegas, MGM Resorts is in the early phases of trying to ween visitors off the plastic sippers. 

"F&B have decided to get rid of straws because, environmentally, we know they're really bad," said Samantha Cummins, MGM Resorts executive director of communications. "We're always trying do what's environmentally responsible."

The company is beginning at Aria and Mandalay Bay with the simple step of not giving out plastic straws on the casino floor, at buffets, inside cafes and company-owned casual dining outlets, poolside and in employee dining rooms. Though the utensils will still be available upon request, customers will have to ask for one with their cocktail or Coke. 

If the initial rollout goes well, Cummins said, the company intends to extend the program to its other Vegas properties, and she added that MGM Resorts is still examining various implications and options for its Straw Reduction Initiative, including switching to paper straws or using stainless steel alternatives in some circumstances. 

"This is for the environment," she said. "Straws are definitely something that a lot of people in general can do without."
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