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Restaurants Ditching Plastic Straws

Single-use plastic straws are commonly found in restaurants, coffee shops, smoothie bars, cafés, and many other establishments. While they have become a cornerstone of modern convenience, single-use plastics, including plastic straws, have a significant negative impact on the environment. They are a part of the vast amounts of plastics that pollute land and waterways each day. Ditching straws is one step in the right direction of moving away from single-use, low-value plastics that serve only momentarily and create lasting environmental devastation.

How do plastic straws impact the environment?

Although plastic straws are often made from polypropylene plastic which is recyclable, the sorting process at recycling facilities and presence of contaminants prevent plastic straws from being recycled. Plastic straws are often too small to be picked up by the conveyor belts which separate the recyclable content from the non-recyclable content at recycling plants. This means that they get lost in the sorting process and are discarded as garbage instead.

Additionally, any plastic straws which are covered in contaminants like sticky residue from a smoothie or iced coffee will be considered too poor of quality to be recycled. What happens to plastic straws when they are sent to the landfill? Due to its long-lasting nature, plastic does not easily break down in the environment. And when it does “break down,” through sun exposure and weathering, it does not decompose, but rather turns into microplastics. Microplastics are pieces of plastic which are less than 5mm in length.  Microplastics are harmful to the environment because they are so small that they get ingested by wildlife and accumulate through the food chain.

Restaurants and café's are ditching the straw

In many cases, single-use plastic straws just aren’t necessary. Most able-bodied people are able to do without a straw, yet it is standard practice to receive one in almost every drink served by a restaurant, café, or bar. Fortunately, this practice is beginning to change due to the no straw movement which is inspiring restaurants to ditch these single-use plastics! Various campaigns have arisen in order to further this movement. Skip the Straw, created by the Ocean Conservancy, allows individuals and businesses to sign a pledge to stop using plastic straws. Along with the pledge, the Ocean Conservancy provides materials which will help spread the message and encourage others to skip the straw as well! This includes a letter template you can use when approaching local restaurants and eateries, “WeSkip the Straw” window decals for participating restaurants and establishments, and a hashtag “#skipthestraw” to use on social media posts! Just a few of the establishments who have signed the pledge include restaurants such as Hard Rock Café in San Francisco, Blue Water Café in Vancouver, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant & Market, and the University of North Florida.

Other initiatives, such as the #stopsucking social media campaign which encourages individuals, organizations, and brands to cease their consumption of plastic straws through an online challenge/pledge, have brought the issue of single-use plastic straws to the public’s attention. Due to this pressure from the public, many well-known businesses in the food industry have begun to phase out straws. Some establishments such as A&W, IKEA, The Keg, and Nando’s have converted to 100% biodegradable paper straws. Additionally, the practice of not providing straws unless a customer asks is also becoming more commonplace. In some cases, straws simply aren’t required. Companies such as Starbucks are planning to eliminate straws by developing strawless lids.

What can you do?

Next time you find yourself out to eat or picking up a drink on the go, refuse a straw! Alternatively, bring along a reusable straw made out of silicone, glass, or metal so you can enjoy your drink while reducing your plastic consumption! Then take the next step of reducing the other single-use plastics in your life. Now is the time to take action!

A brief history of how plastic straws took over the world

The Lonely Whale #stopsucking

Skip the Straw

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