UI seeks to adopt reusable straws


Adam Zhang

Emma Schafman, junior in ACS, uses a plastic straw from Espresso Royale. The coffee shop uses a mixture of plastic straws and compostable straws, but is looking for a more sustainable supplier.

By Madelyn Foster, Assistant News Editor

The 2015 video of marine biologist Christine Figgener pulling a straw from the nostril of a sea turtle while it bled circulated the internet, gaining more than 30 million views on YouTube and inspiring conversations and legislation to ban single-use plastic straws.

Now, Espresso Royale and the University are joining the movement.

Douglas McCarver, regional manager of Espresso Royale, said the company is looking for a permanent solution to eliminate plastic-straw usage, but it has run into issues with suppliers of environmentally friendly straws.

“The main obstacles currently are suppliers not being able to keep up with the sudden and sharp rise in demand for compostable and paper straws,” McCarver said in an email.

McCarver also said Espresso Royale customers may have already started to notice compostable straws in stores and will see more in the future.

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Compostable straws are straws made entirely out of renewable resources.

“We currently do use a mix of plastic straws and compostable straws, as we are in (the) process of looking for a consistent, permanent solution and supplier to eliminate the plastic straws entirely,” McCarver said.

Madeline Armetta, junior in Media and member of student sustainability group Act Green, said she thinks Espresso Royale’s choice to eliminate plastic straws will have a big impact on campus.

“There are people who buy iced coffee or another beverage every day that use a plastic straw, and them seeing the campaign and changing their daily behaviors can have a great impact in the long run,” Armetta said in an email. “It can also have a domino effect in the way that people will not buy plastic straws at the store anymore because now they know about the issue.”

The University also hopes to eliminate plastic straws from dining halls by replacing them with paper straws or another more ecologically friendly option, but it will not do so until current plastic straw inventories are exhausted.

“Once we get to a place where we are close to exhausting this inventory, we will begin to further assess biodegradable options,” said Chelsea Hamilton, senior assistant director for communications and marketing for University Housing, in an email.

Rebecca Vining, senior in LAS and president of Students for Environmental Concerns, said plastic straws only make up a small percentage of plastic waste pollution and movements to ban them may be efforts by businesses to garner publicity.

“I personally think that it’s great to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, but until we check the corporations in power, we will never be able to save the planet,” Vining said in an email. “Trying to minimize straws is a great step in the right direction, but it’s a baby step, and it’s token justice.”

Vining said it will eventually be necessary for people to find alternatives to all single-use plastics for the sake of the environment.

“The best thing about the straw-ban movement is that it’s getting people in power talking about environmental issues,” Vining said.

California was the first state to sign a law banning the automatic distribution of single-use plastic straws. Customers at California restaurants must ask for a plastic straw if they wish to use one.

According to a report by the Associated Press, supporters of the new law in California view it as a step toward reducing ocean pollution.

Armetta said plastic straws can end up in oceans where marine life may mistake them for food, which will ultimately result in them choking and dying.

Vining encourages people to explore other options when faced with the decision to use plastic straws, but she recognizes not all people are able to drink from reusable or paper straws.

“I personally am lucky enough to not need any straw, and I’d advocate for that over any of the options,” Vining said. “In short, if you don’t need a straw, don’t use one. If you do, that’s OK. You aren’t single-handedly causing global warming.”

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