Shaken or stirred — whichever way you order your next drink, you might find that it comes sans straw, and for good reason. Boston restaurants are taking a stand against the one-and-done plastic straws, turning to alternatives like biodegradable paper or reusable stainless steel, in an effort to combat the negative impact straws are having on the environment. It’s part of a larger movement spearheaded mostly by The Last Plastic Straw, a punny name for an initiative from the Plastic Pollution Coalition that’s tackling this hugely serious problem.
More than 500 million straws are used in the United States every day, according to Eco-Cycle. But wait — aren’t straws recyclable? Turns out, it’s not that simple. Straws that are made out of polypropylene are in fact recyclable (although not all straws are made from polypropylene), but curbside recycling programs may or may not take them depending on where you live and even if they do, machines aren’t equipped to handle the weight or size of straws and they often slip through the cracks.
Confusion from consumers about what is and isn’t recyclable only compounds the issue, and typically straws end up in landfills, leaching chemicals into the groundwater, or in waterways where they’re ingested by wildlife, creating a ripple effect that poisons the food chain and threatens the health of marine animals. Either way, things aren’t good.
For TRADE, the impetus for the change was the suggestion of chef-owner Jody Adams. “Chef Jody brought this concept to the team originally,” said Amanda Lewis, Director of Marketing, PR & Communications for the Waterfront District spot. “We ultimately made the decision to stop providing straws with non-alcoholic beverages altogether. However, we are sensitive to guest needs and we do carry paper straws as an alternative for guests to use upon request.”
A desire to integrate more sustainable practices into business operations prompted Cultivar to nix the single-use straws in favor of paper. “One of our core values at Cultivar is stewardship. It’s actually part of our mission statement,” Emily French-Dumont, owner and Director of Operations shared. “Moving from plastic to paper straws was a no-brainer.”
Beyond the environmental issues, the aesthetic of plastic straws was a compelling reason for OAK Long Bar + Kitchen General Manager Patrick Mitchell to forgo them. His take? They’re an eyesore. “I’ve always disliked how straws look in drinks,” he said. “A bartender works hard to make a beautiful cocktail filled with specially selected ingredients, homemade cordials, syrups, garnishes and more, and when a plastic straw is plopped in the glass it visually cheapens the presentation.”
The Back Bay restaurant, nestled inside the Fairmont Copley Plaza, has taken steps to create cocktails minus the drinking instruments but for sips that do require some assistance, they’re debuting Hay! Straws (pictured above), which are made from natural wheat stems and are 100% biodegradable, on Friday, April 20th in honor of Earth Day weekend.
If the #SkipTheStraw movement is important to you, you can support the crusade one drink at a time at the spots mentioned above, as well as other local watering holes like Eastern Standard, Café ArtScience, Myers + Chang, Loco, Fat Baby, Row 34, The Hawthorne and Les Sablons.
Know a restaurant that’s ditched plastic straws? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll add them to the list.