Nixing the Straw

Walking into the office on a hot day with an iced tea or coffee in hand can help start the work week off right. However, once these drinks are finished, they are often thrown away without a second thought. What impact does this have?

Many companies are now beginning to reconsider the straw because it often creates pollution that threatens wildlife. Volunteers with the International Coastal Cleanup On average, about eight million metric tons of plastic go into the world’s oceans every year. According to the Ocean Conservancy, “The average person uses 1.6 straws per day. If 25,000 people pledge to skip the straw we could save 5,000,000 straws – and prevent a lot of them from entering the ocean and possibly harming wildlife.”

Starbucks has recently kicked their non-compostable plastic straws to the curb in favor of a recyclable plastic lid. The company plans to keep straws for their Frappuccino drinks, which will be made from PLA compostable plastic, paper, or other sustainable materials. Starbucks also has plans to incorporate these new cold drink recyclable lids into their new locations by 2020.

Although this is a step towards greater sustainability, some members of the disabled community believe the choice may be misguided. The lack of straws makes it difficult for some members of this community to drink the drinks they order at coffee houses like Starbucks, making these cafes less accessible.

A recent report from CNN also explained why plastic straw alternatives would not work for this community. “For people who need straws, materials other than plastic just don’t do the job. Paper? It dissolves, or you can bite through them. Metal? It can get too hot or too cold, and can even be painful for those with symptoms like jitters. Reusable straws can easily be forgotten at home.” Starbucks released a statement confirming that they will work with the disabled community moving forward to be sure that their needs are met.

The company has also invested in the development of a recyclable, compostable cup for hot beverages to improve the sustainability of their products further. However, the coffee shop giant is not the only business that is striving to become more sustainable. Burger King has recently stated that it will begin using biodegradable straws as well this September at its locations throughout the United Kingdom. Bon Appetit Management Company has also commented that it plans to stop using single-use plastic straws in the locations it manages:

“Our first choice is to have straws only by request,” said Maisie Ganzler, chief strategy and brand officer for the company. Ganzler said the company is bringing in paper straws and experimenting with ones made from hay and bamboo.”

MGM Resorts International also announced that, as a part of their environmental responsibility program, MGM intends only to offer single-use straws for patrons upon request. Additionally, some cities such as Fort Myers Beach, Florida, have banned single-use straws.

Consumers should be aware of many business’ efforts to reduce the use of plastic straws as it will help limit waste and increase the sustainability of many companies. It is important that these straws are not entirely done away with to maintain the accessibility of the products served at these restaurants and coffee shops.

Photo from Pexels

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