Story & Photo by Julie Archer
Plastic straws are starting to be banned in restaurants and even cities since the consistent circulation of a 2015 video featuring sailors rescuing and removing a plastic straw from a sea turtle. This ban was done in the name of reducing ocean pollution caused by plastic.
Large cities are leading the way in this environmental endeavor. On July 1, Seattle became the first major city in the United States to ban plastic straws. San Francisco also plans to outlaw plastic straws by July 2019.
Businesses began adopting a plan to reduce plastic waste, starting with plastic straws. A US-Australian study published in Marine Policy: The International Journal for Ocean Affairs found plastic straws account for .03 percent of plastic that enters the ocean annually, while the vast majority comes from fishing nets and disposable packaging. These different waste products affect the environment in various ways. For example, straws and packaging are lethal in a more direct way to sea life, while others decompose slowly or ruin habitats.
For most people, plastic straws are not a necessity, but there are some cases where people rely on them due to a disability. People who rely on plastic straws are against the movement to ban them. As a result, companies are trying to make straw alternatives for the people who do need them.
Large chain restaurants joined the movement to rid themselves of plastic straws in their businesses. Starbucks plans to go strawless at all 28,000 stores by 2020. Starbucks said this will eliminate more than one billion straws in one year.
Many local chains and restaurants in Oklahoma decided to go strawless, as well. Keith Paul, CEO of A Good Egg Dining Group, started a ban of plastic straws in all of his restaurants.
“It was an easy decision,” Paul said. “I think making small changes that are really easy can make an impact.”
Paul’s restaurants now offer paper straws as an alternative to accommodate those who need them.
While most feedback on the straw bans have been positive, not everybody is pleased with the switch from plastic to paper straws. Some people think that not having bendable straws available is discriminatory toward disabled people who need them.
“The negative feedback for the most part has been very mild,” Paul said. “In regards to the paper straws not being very good and not lasting as long as plastic straws.”
Paul also mentioned he expects larger national chains will come up with a better alternative over time.
Companies have already started creating a better straw alternative. The Final Straw is a company that created a reusable stainless steel straw, which can be easily taken on the go. The Kickstarter campaign straw collapses into a small container that can go on a keychain. The reusable straw also comes with materials to help keep the straw clean. The straw fits in plastic lids from restaurants. The innovative straws are available for pre-orders only and are expected to ship in November.
For more information, visit finalstraw.com.
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