Strawternatives, Because Plastic Straws Suck
Every single time I walk onto the beach, the first thing I always find is a straw, and not one mind you but a fistful. We throw out over five hundred million plastic straws a day in the United States. Rarely do they get recycled, but instead wind up in landfills, or in our case, wash up on the beaches. There are several reasons why we waste so many straws. Ever see a bartender use a straw to mix and taste a drink, only to throw the straw away and use another one for the customer? You ask at a restaurant for no straw please, and yet you are given one anyway. That is due to it being hammered into an employee’s routine that everyone gets a straw. Why is that? How do we change our use of plastic straws? How many of you actually use straws at home with every meal? Straws have become a huge convenience, but a major inconvenience for wildlife.
The answer I always hear when I ask these questions … well people don’t want to drink out of the glasses, they prefer to use a straw. This implies that the glasses are not clean enough to drink from, however the plates are okay to eat your food from? When I ask for a beer I don’t get a straw in my glass, when you order coffee you don’t get a straw in your coffee cup. The argument that the glasses are not clean enough is wrong, these items are all washed in the same dishwashers. Should we use a straw to eat our food off the possibly dirty plate? Of course not, that is just silly, so why are the glasses considered “dirty”. In the case of some bar glasses they are washed in a glass only dishwasher, which is even cleaner than the dish room washers due to the sterilize solutions in the detergents.
People have gotten it into their heads that the glasses are dirty and everything else is clean. That is a mindset we need to change.
There are many ways you can stop using plastic straws to help alleviate this harmful litter. The first and foremost is ask “No Straw Please” when you order. The flip side of that is having servers trained to not actually bring you that straw. The automatic reflex to put a straw in a glass is part of the training. I worked in the restaurant industry for twenty years, the waste is astounding. If people don’t use a straw that was placed on their table it still goes into the trash. All of this can be alleviated with some simple changes and new training.
Restaurants, bars, fast food, convenience stores, etc. need to start using paper straws, especially the ones along the coasts and waterways. There are several types that will hold up to any length of time in a liquid. Many are coated with beeswax. There are bamboo straws as well. All of these are biodegradable. Real biodegradable, meaning they are organically biodegradable. Not the plastic biodegradable that just breaks down into smaller inorganic particles, and is still an issue for the environment. There are stainless steel straws, which can be washed and used over and over again. Many establishments fear people will steal the stainless steel straws. I have several friends that carry their own stainless steel straws with them when they go out to a bar or restaurant.
Cocktail straws are some of the worst, they are pretty much useless and yet are used sometimes two at a time. Because you can’t get enough out of the drink with one straw. So much for using less straws now you need more to drink your drink. There are bamboo drink stirrers that could replace these useless straws. Again you can give them a paper straw if they really need a straw. A real sized straw not one that could create enough back pressure to suck your head into your glass from sucking so hard.
Bar and restaurant owners I have spoken with say that straws help increase sales because people drink more, paper straws are too expensive. So let me get this straight, if you give people a straw, they drink more, and you make more money. Yet that straw that makes you that money is now too expensive? Meanwhile I still don’t get a straw with my beer? Paper straws do cost more than plastic, that is a given, but not much at all. That minor cost difference can be passed onto the customer, and easily made up. Especially by these establishments making a killing at the beaches. Also if you aren’t giving everyone a straw except those that ask for one, then there would be less being used and the cost difference would be minimal. The benefits to the environment would be major.
Stop giving out straws and provide them only to those that ask for one, and then give them a paper straw. Ask for “no straw please” when you go out on the town. buy stainless steel straws and take them with you many come in a nice little carrying case. The answer is simple to help alleviate the daily waste of five hundred million straws. It will just take some major effort to instill that simple solution.
Next stop is plastic cutlery, another thing we find a lot of on the beaches.