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Passport and Cellar Take Policies Against Straws

By: Kelly Ocasio, Staff Writer


In 2015, a viral picture started the anti-straw movement. A student from Texas A&M was diving off the coast of Costa Rica when her team found a long plastic straw lodged in a turtle’s nostril. The turtle became the symbol of the negative consequences of using single-use straws and the overall plastic problem the world faces. This past summer, the anti-straw movement really took off, with cities and companies vowing to limit their use or ban them completely.

A report by Plastics Europe, one of the world’s largest plastic producers, found that in 2015, the world produced 322 millions tons of plastic. Out of those millions of tons, only 9 percent is recycled. Although straws are not the main contributors to the plastic waste problem, 500 millions straws are used daily in the United States alone. Plastic straws pose a significant threat to marine wildlife, as seen in the turtle video, as well as the pollution of beaches and coastal areas. Activists and environmentalists hope that boycotting single-use straws will produce two results: eliminating single-use plastics and raising awareness about the importance of reducing overall plastic use.

Multiple companies, including Starbucks, are now going strawless by introducing a newly redesigned cup lid. Many customers applauded the idea but raised the concern that the lids themselves were still made of plastic. Chris Milne, director of packaging sourcing for Starbucks, said the lid was made of polypropylene content that was widely recycled. On campus, Passport Cafe adopted the use of these newly redesigned lids for its iced drinks this past academic year. “On campus, the leaders in disposable straw reduction are the managers in retail dining,” Rob Andrejewski, director of sustainability, said in an email. The Cellar is another campus dining spot where straws have been used frequently. In the past, Cellar servers would give customers straws with every drink they served. The official Cellar policy now is that servers should not give out straws unless asked by the customer, Melissa Comstock, Cellar manager, said.

“We are planning to switch to paper straws,” she said. “The university dining services as a whole is working toward using only paper straws.”

However, 8:15 at Boatwright is still using the old Starbucks lids with plastic straws. Despite this, they encourage students to BYOT, or “bring your own tumbler,” as a way to reduce waste, a policy also used at nationwide Starbucks stores.

In July 2018, Seattle became the first major U.S. city to ban single-use plastic straws. San Francisco plans to implement a straw ban in July 2019 and city-council members in New York and Washington, D.C. have proposed bans.

Although many people view straws as objects of convenience, people with disabilities often need them the most. Other alternatives, such as a paper straws, are not a viable solution for people with certain disabilities. For some people with limited mobility, not using straws can lead to choking hazards. In Seattle, disabilities advocates spoke out about their grievances and now the city requires vendors to keep a certain amount of plastic straws for those who need them the most. Instead of complete bans, companies are instead opting to gradually phase out their plastic straw use.

“By nature, the straw isn’t recyclable and the lid is, so we feel this decision is more sustainable and more socially responsible,” Milne said in a press release.