It’s come to the last straw. The last plastic straw was served at Shri restaurant and lounge on 31st October this year, marking the death of the plastic straw, appropriately, on Halloween.
This is a significant turning point in the industry, with an iconic business taking a contentious stand against the most overused, unnecessary drinking accessory ever invented.
A growing number of independently owned and operated (therefore able to make quick critical decisions) food and beverage businesses have woken up to the fact that there is an ever-increasing issue of non-biodegradable plastics entering our oceans every year. An estimated 8 million tons of plastic material enters each year, of which plastic straws are in the top 10 most commonly found plastic item washed up on beaches.
I remember when I first started bartending in the late 1990s in London that straws were only served with crushed iced drinks such as the Mojito, Caipirinha or smoothies. By changing to cubed ice in the Mojito, for example, you would have a classic cocktail that follows the no-straw specification of the Floridita bar in Havana.
The figures for the use of plastic straws are truly shocking, with more than 500 million plastic straws used in the US every day. That equates to 175 billion straws a year entering landfills, and littering waterways and oceans. In the US, there is enough consumption of straws to wrap around the planet 2.5 times per day!
As we are in a rapidly growing market with a rapidly growing f&b sector, it is up to key influencers to set the example.
Many alternative materials can be used for the ubiquitous drinking straw. A single-use plastic straw costs VND150, paper straws (single use but biodegradable) are VND500, bamboo straws (seven time use) are VND3000, metal unlimited re-usable straws are VND10,000, and glass straws are VND12,000. So the alternatives do not make even 0.5% difference to the cost of a drink.
What exactly can you do about this problem? Bars can be part of this movement by simply stating on menus “straws available on request”, or even better, banning them altogether.
“By only providing plastic straws when requested, we can significantly reduce the disposal of single-use plastic. Such a simple action will not only save on overheads, it will have incredibly positive and far reaching effects on the planet.” – as quoted by Straw Wars in the UK.
So, next time you’re in a fancy bar, ask the bartender not to use a plastic straw in your drink and maybe, just maybe, by doing that, you will be helping in your way to save the oceans before it’s too late.
Shri Restaurant and Lounge manager Richie Fawcett is an artist who sits on Asia’s 50 best bars voting panel.