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The Last (Plastic) Straw: Making the Shift Toward a Straw-Less Society

Multi-color soft drinks with straw on it / Photo by Getty Images

 

The use of plastic straws is slowly coming to an end. Famous establishments and local restaurant owners are now starting to prevent customers and staff members from using plastic straws. At first, manager Mark Hibbard had no intentions of saving the environment with his ban of plastic straws inside the Portland bar. His only concern was that he was tired of unclogging the sink with plastic stirrers. Customers also tend to remove the straw from the drink they serve, which is how Hibbard and his staff noticed that straws in drinks were completely unnecessary.

At present, this Portland bar serves drinks without straws and for customers who ask, they have stainless steel, bamboo, and paper straws to offer. The production of plastic and the amount of waste it causes has always been an environmental issue. Millions of plastic straws are disposed of every day and these stretch into oceans and landfills. In fact, there was a recent viral video of a turtle with a straw stuck in its nostril. Fortunately, homes, companies and local restaurant owners are now taking matters into their own hands.

Brian Kennedy, chair of the Maine Surfrider Foundation, plans to promote a straw-by-request policy nationwide. The Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit group that aims to protect Portland’s surrounding waters and life. Restaurants such as The Green Elephant and Honey Paw are among the few establishments that have started following the policy. Owners of Woodland F&B and frequent surfers, Birch Shambaugh and Fayth Preyer, have witnessed the amount of plastic waste floating over their seas and on land. Back then, they have already thought of replacing plastic with paper and their cocktails to be served with stirrers made of wood. In total, they have reduced their use of plastic by 60 percent.

However, a number of restaurant managers also claim that these replacements cost a lot more than plastic straws. Gritty McDuff, general manager Troy Hanna stated, “You have to figure out how you’re going to make it work for the business, too.” He further mentioned that the restaurant now allots $150 for 10,000 alternative straws, when they only spent $15 for 5,000 plastic straws. Meanwhile, Bramhall Pub manager Hibbard was once worried customers would take their metal straws home with them. The case is yet to happen as Hibbard now claims he does not mind. If they do take the straws home -- it would be better in the long run.

 

 

Meanwhile, thanks to the project A Climate to Thrive, restaurants and bars located in Mount Desert Island are now following the Sustainable Food Business Pledge. Around 44 out of 180 establishments signed the agreement, switching from plastic to paper and other sustainable sources to make straws. Some restaurant owners and managers completely banned the use of straws because affordable, alternative straws caused an awful aftertaste. The overall reaction from customers was positive, including conservative individuals and prominent attorneys.

Fast Food Chain Says Goodbye to Plastic Straws

Environmentalists were thrilled when the news broke out that McDonald’s, the famous fast food chain, will be replacing plastic straws with paper in the UK. They will start with 1,361 pieces by September and more to be produced next year. The company was pressured to address the amount of waste they produce by using large amounts of plastic on a daily basis. They were also made aware of the harmful effects of plastic, especially towards underwater life, such as turtles and fishes.

This fast-food chain had already tested the replacement of plastic straws since April and they received positive feedback among customers. There are currently two suppliers of paper straws for McDonald’s, one of which is Transcend Packaging located in Wales. Moreover, the UK government is also planning on completely banning plastic straws, cotton buds, and drink stirrers in England. They plan to help in the improvement and cleanliness of rivers and oceans.

What Difference Can One Metal Straw Make?

Popspoken columnist Jovi Ho recently replaced his plastic straws with different alternatives. He now claims to notice more of the plastic waste around him than before when he used them. Ho calls himself an environmental warrior, after all the years of ignoring Earth Hour and now using metal straws to be eco-conscious. Despite telling the waiters and staff about his metal straw, and the fact that he did not want any plastic straws, his drinks still arrived with plastic. It seems that not all establishments are aware of the unnecessary presence of plastic straws.

Throughout the week, Ho managed to maximize the use of his metal straw. Moreover, he had also learned about Singapore’s ongoing plastic waste problem, and that being eco-conscious was an "uphill task." Maintaining this new lifestyle was certainly a challenge, as they can easily be replaced and could only amount to a small amount of change. He mentioned the minimal positive effects of metal straws when drinks were served in plastic cups and covers. He said, “Plastic bags, plastic utensils, styrofoam packaging — these easily outweigh the tube of plastic that I refuse.”

Fortunately, local companies in Singapore are now following the pledge and minimizing their overall use of plastic. However, Ho emphasizes that these would only work once a larger part of the population stops ignoring the plastic waste problem.

 

Six metal drinking straw / Photo by Shutterstock

 

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