What’s long, thin and only useful for 20 minutes?
Need a clue? It’s also used by millions of people worldwide, every day and right now it’s not got a good reputation.
Of course, we’re talking about the plastic straw. This every day item is currently under a lot of scrutiny, with calls to have it banned around the world.
In a single day, we use more than 500 million straws globally, chucking them away as soon as we’re finished. We think of plastic bags and bottles as being the worst single-use plastics, but how often do you reuse a plastic bag or bottle compared to a straw?
To paint a picture of how serious the problem is, one diver in Manly, NSW found more than 600 straws during two short snorkels.
Is It Time to Swap the Straw?
Plastic not only takes hundreds (and thousands) of years to break down, it never truly decomposes – it just fragments into tiny pieces. Those tiny pieces become part of our planet’s eco-systems: they’re in the water we drink, and in the animals and plants we digest.
Consumer pressure to ban the straw is building. There are literally hundreds of campaigns and petitions online. The Last Straw is an Australian campaign, helping hospitality businesses to use fewer straws:
“A plastic straw in my gin might seem innocent enough, but multiply that by the billions of people that buy billions of drinks across the world every single day, and you start to get an idea of the scale of the problem we’re looking at. That straw I threw away after stirring my drink will outlive me and everyone else on this planet. Unless we do something to change.”
And they have some serious weight behind them; Young Henry’s, Society Salamanca, and Mountain Goat Beer are among the long list of member venues that have signed up so far.
Changes aren’t just happening in Australia. In California, a bill has just been proposed, which would stop restaurants giving customers a straw unless they ask for one. If it goes through, waiting and bar staff could be hit with a $1000 fine for giving out a plastic straw!
Sustainability Makes Business Sense
At this year’s World Class Bartender of the Year, sustainability featured high in the professional panel’s discussion on 2018 trends. They quoted a recent poll that said, nearly one in two customers expressed a willingness to pay a 10% premium for socially responsible and environmentally friendly goods.
Panel member and mixology master, Dre Masso said: "Sustainable and re-useable methods and ingredients are becoming increasingly important. The mixologists who embrace this new reality are the ones who will flourish."
And Diageo Reserve Global Cocktailian Lauren Mote had advice for venues:
“Some of the best ways to bring sustainability to life in your venue are extremely simple. For example, you could start by getting rid of disposable napkins and straws. You could replace these straws with metal ones and instead of placing every cocktail on a paper napkin why not invest in stylish leather coasters that can be reused and look better with age?
So maybe it’s time to switch up our straws and consider stainless steel for sipping on our drinks instead.