WEAL Asks Members and Waukesha County Residents to “Skip the Straw”
As a component of WEAL’s Goal Zero Waste: Waukesha County Initiative, WEAL is asking our members, and the general public, to join a global movement and “Skip the Straw.”
WEAL is also asking establishments serving beverages in Waukesha County to enact a “straw upon request” policy with a plan to transition to reusable or biodegradable alternatives for customers who ask to have a straw.
Plastic straws may seem harmless but they contribute to the more than 150 metric tons of plastics in the world’s oceans. Reducing the amount of discarded plastic is crucial because if nothing is done by 2050 the oceans will have more plastics than fish.
Plastic straws are not collected for recycling and eventually end up in landfills, incinerators, along roadsides or in oceans, rivers, lakes and streams. They are also one to the top ten items collected during coastal cleanups according to the Ocean Conservancy.
Plastic straws do not biodegrade they photodegrade into microplastics which can take more than 200 years. Microplastic fragments can be easily ingested by fish, birds and other wildlife and ultimately enter the food chain.
There are no precise figures on how many plastic straws are used each day in the United States. Estimates range from 375 million to 500 million. To put how many plastic straws are discarded every year in perspective, Disney estimates 175 million plastic straws are used annually at their properties and is switching to paper straws.
On a smaller scale, the Modern Honolulu and the Hilton Waikoloa Village in Hawaii tracked their plastic straw usage and found between the two hotels 1.4 million plastic straws were used in 2017. Both hotels now only offer paper straws upon request.
Plastic Straw Regulations and Bans in the US and Around the World
Plastic Straw initiatives or bans are being enacted, or considered, across the globe. Island nations and coastal cities that are most impacted by single-use plastic pollution are spearheading efforts to “skip the straw.” Coastal communities understand plastic straws, and other single-use plastic items threaten the environment and as litter they are a deterrent for tourism.
The state of California recently enacted legislation requiring dine-in restaurants to only give straws when requested. Statewide plastic straw bans are being considered in Hawaii, New Jersey and New York.
A number of cities in the United States have banned plastic straws. Seattle’s ban on plastic straws and utensils went into effect on July 1st. In California, Monterrey, Malibu and Berkley have recently approved banning plastic straws. In Florida St. Petersburg, Miami Beach and Fort Myers Florida have also approved plastic straw bans.
The United Kingdom is proposing a ban on plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds. Queen Elizabeth II has already banned plastic straws and bottles from all royal estates. Scotland plans to ban plastic straws by the end of 2019. Belize plans to phase out plastic straws, shopping bags and plastic utensils by April, 2019 and Taiwan is planning to eliminate the use of plastic straws, bags and utensils by 2030.
Numerous restaurants, bars, hotel chains, cruise lines, airlines and other venues have decided to no longer offer plastic straws. Several sports arenas, including the Milwaukee Bucks new stadium, have also decided not to offer plastic straws.
What Can You Do?
Ask yourself if you routinely use straws for beverages consumed at home, or for beer or wine? If the answer is “no” why use a straw when you are away from home?
Although reusable and biodegradable straws are the best options to replace plastic, it is always preferable to Skip the Straw altogether and just drink from a glass.
Not using a plastic straw won’t eliminate plastic pollution and litter, but this action raises awareness about environmental issues associated with single-use plastic items and encourages people to think about their impact on the environment. If you agree plastic straws contribute to pollution and litter, and believe not using a plastic straw is a good idea, WEAL is asking you to “skip the straw.”
When ordering a beverage, let your server know you do not wish to have a straw. Placing a plastic straw in beverages has become a routine. If you receive a straw when you asked not to have one, don’t get upset. Use the unwanted straw as an opportunity to mention why you have decided to “skip the straw.”
WEAL believes the time is right for establishments serving beverages to enact a “straw upon request policy” and give customers a choice on whether or not to have one.
WEAL also supports phasing out plastic straws in favor of reusable or biodegradable straws.
Alternatives to Plastic Straws
There are a number of alternatives to plastic straws. Good quality paper straws are available, but will cost more than plastic straws. To keep costs down for your favorite restaurants, just ask not to have a straw.
Some restaurants and bars across the country are offering reusable straws made from bamboo, steel, glass or silicone. Creative alternatives like pasta and reeds are also becoming popular, but keep in mind the most environmentally beneficial option is no straw.
Beverage serving establishments must be sensitive to the needs of disabled customers and not question why anyone is requesting a straw. In addition to having biodegradable straws upon request, beverage serving venues can purchase a small supply of reusable steel straws with silicone tips, or keep a few packages of plastic straws on hand to provide acceptable options for all customers who request straws.
If you don’t want to ask for a straw but prefer to use one, you can always bring your own. There are a number of options available that include a case and cleaning brush. One steel straw even folds into a case that can be put in a pocket, a purse or attached to a key chain.
If you know of any establishment in Waukesha County that has already enacted a “straw upon request” policy, please let WEAL know by contacting www.weal.org. WEAL would like to recognize these establishments on our website, Facebook page and in newsletter articles.
WEAL will be posting new information on the WEAL website and Facebook page, please share information on reducing single-use plastics with your family and friends.
In the meantime, “skip the straw” and enjoy drinking from a glass!