Straws vanish in thousands from takeaways and fast food each day and have become a litter pickers’ nightmare! Now many of London’s bars, hotels and top restaurant have joined together to try and reduce the use of plastic drinking straws and wants to encourage everyone else in the hospitality and food industry including commercial restaurant insurance providers, cafes and sandwich shops to follow. The “straw wars” campaign aims to stop handing out straws to customers and only give them out when asked for.
Of course the straws can be recycled, but campaigners argue that they are rarely any dedicated waste collection for pubs, bars and restaurants, and that people eating fast food on the go rarely think about recycling their straws, which means they end up in landfill. For example, Westminster council doesn’t accept plastic straws for recycling from corporate users.
Another hurdle to overcome is consumer behaviour. McDonalds provides straws in dispensers but consumers usually take more than they need.
The campaign comes from leading restaurants, hotels and bars in Soho, including Tapas Brindisa Soho, & Aubin, the Gay Hussar, Soho House, Quo Vadis and Cafe Rosa’s.
Campaign leader and owner of restaurant and takaway Randall & Aubin, Jamie Poulton, said, “Straw Wars is a campaign to unite the Soho community in eliminating unnecessary single-use plastic. If we’re able to raise awareness with Straw Wars and the work that Soho has done towards a cleaner environment, then the next step would be a move towards resolving the current waste collection and disposal issues in Soho. This is a very ambitious project, but will benefit local businesses, customers and the environment.”
Even though there are no figures for the number of plastic straws that make up the total plastic waste, and is thought to be quite small, they can impact on marine life as straws can travel down drains and end up in oceans and rivers.
Litter campaigns officer with the Marine Conservation Society, Emma Snowden, said it welcomed the move. She said, “We see so much single use plastic appear in the sea and on beaches in our surveys. In the case of straws that are given out routinely, the product may have been manufactured and then disposed of without even a single use – this represents a senseless waste of resource as well as a waste management issue.”
She carried on to say, “Many plastic straws on beaches are likely to come from street drains, often via rivers and sewers. Plastic is a huge problem for our marine wildlife and makes up over 60% of all the litter we find on UK beaches, particularly single use plastic such as bags. Plastic straws make up a small proportion of all this litter, but if everyone took responsibility to dispose of their litter correctly in the first place it would help massively.”
A spokesperson for the British Plastics Federation, the trade association for producers, convertors and reprocessors, said: “The use of plastic straws is not only the most durable and hygienic alternative, they are recyclable and can be used in energy from waste schemes. The BPF is a close supporter of the Keep Britain Tidy Love Where You Live campaign and has spoken out against the senseless disposal of consumer artefacts. It has called for more collection receptacles to be positioned on beaches to encourage both the garnering of potentially valuable resources and cleaner beaches.”