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The Final Straw

The Final Straw

If you have ever ordered a drink in a bar or restaurant you are likely to have received a plastic straw too. But did you ever think about where this came from or where it will end up?

Plastic straws, as well as other disposable plastics, have gained lots of publicity since David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II. This program highlighted the issues that single-use plastics pose to our oceans and wildlife.

The main issue with plastic straws is that they are made from virgin materials, are only used for a short period and the majority are not recycled.

Because of this, many companies are now campaigning to ban plastic straws, particularly in the hospitality industry. One example of this is ‘Straw War’s', started up by Randall and Aubin (one of our longstanding customers). We wanted to find out more.

So, we caught up with Jamie Poulton owner of Randall and Aubin, to find out about this campaign. 

When and what inspired you start up Straw Wars?

‘I started Straw Wars in 2010, as a campaign to raise awareness of the impacts plastic straws have on the environment, and to make a change in the Soho area.  A friend of mine had recently sailed across the Pacific in ‘Plastiki’ a boat made of plastic waste which started me thinking about what else could be done.’
The Final Straw

Plastiki

Soho is densely populated with bars and restaurants, an area that has a high impact in terms of waste production and air pollution. Jamie seized the opportunity to make a small, impactful change…

‘I’ve always been conscious of waste, and plastic straws were an easy thing to change.’
 ‘Straws are inexpensive, so cost savings weren’t an incentive. The fact that it was a quick, easy change to make attracted people to sign up and made it achievable’. 

The pledge is simple. Either get rid of plastic straws completely or provide them only when requested by a customer. 

 ‘… we created a website and some stickers to display in windows for those signed up to the pledge. That way we were raising awareness not only for those working there but also people coming to the area to eat and drink’.

Did restaurants in Soho show much interest in the campaign?

 ‘… everyone I approached was extremely positive towards the campaign and took on board my suggestions. I started Randall and Aubin in 1996 so I am familiar with many of the restaurant and bar owners in the area.’ 

Currently the campaign has 158 restaurants and bars in the Soho area signed up to the pledge. 

Do you have any future plans for the campaign?

‘…plastic pollution is such a topical issue; it has gained lots of momentum that most businesses in the hospitality industry are already getting on board with the idea of reducing plastic waste.’

And finally what else do you think needs to change?

‘ ... I think packaging is the next big area we need to see some change. Deliveries consist of so much wasteful packaging and polystyrene in particular. Suppliers need to rethink the way they supply products, can’t vessels be cleaned and reused to deliver items?’

So it appears the tide against plastic straws is gaining momentum. Scotland is even set to become the first UK country to completely ban all plastic straws by 2019. We hope that the hospitality industry continues to think about plastic straws and other disposables and ways in which they can reduce this waste. 

Jessica Parrilla

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