In an effort to reduce pollution created from plastic drinking straws, Washington, D.C. became the latest jurisdiction to institute a ban on plastic straws. The ban, which went into effect on January 1, 2019, requires businesses to phase out the use of plastic straws and applies to a variety of businesses that sell beverages, including restaurants, bars, cafes, cafeterias and grocery stores. It also applies to institutions that provide drinks to employees or guests, such as churches, daycare providers or nonprofits that hold events where food and drinks are served.
According to the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE), “packaging waste occupies a significant amount of limited space available in our landfills.” The new law banning plastic straws is part of a larger campaign “to reduce our waste and help meet the District’s goal of 80% waste reduction by 2032.” Under the new law, businesses may still provide straws to accommodate those with disabilities. But generally, businesses and other entities that serve food must use compostable and recyclable materials, the DOEE said.
So how can businesses transition away from plastic straws more eco-friendly alternatives?
Educate the public. Many people are not aware of the effects of plastic on the environment and others may not know the severity of the problem. If eating establishments start to inform the public about the significant impact plastic straws leave on the environment, more people would be willing to give up their straws, leading to reduced plastic pollution.
According to Julie Sharkey, a member of Our Last Straw, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the use of single-use plastic straws, “when possible, information on the website, menu and social media can help staff members and guests make a smooth transition.”
Reduce the use of plastic straws. At most restaurants, receiving a straw with a drink is automatic, people don’t really think twice about it. However, if consumers understood the enormous amount of waste generated by straws, many, if not most, would be willing to forgo their use. For businesses that truly want to contribute to a cleaner environment, ending the distribution of plastic straws entirely is the best way.
Establishments such as Matchbox, Sweetgreen, The Colada Shop and Starbucks, as well as other food serving entities such as SeaWorld and American Airlines, have stopped or plan to stop using plastic straws. How much would plastic pollution be reduced if more businesses and consumers changed their habits on the use of plastic straws?
Switch to eco-friendly straws. As more people become aware of the environmental damage caused by plastic and more jurisdictions restrict its use in the foodservice industry, the number of alternatives to plastic straws are increasing. Switching to paper straws or straws that are biodegradable and compostable enables businesses to significantly reduce their environmental impact and meet the increasing demands of eco-savvy customers.
A number of companies now make straws that are recyclable and made from renewable resources, such as bamboo, seaweed, metal and biodegradable paper. These eco-friendly straw manufacturers include Aardvark Straws, Acme Paper and Supply Co, Costco and, of course, My Turtle Straws.
By Jessica Ricks