At the 2017 StarChefs Congress in New York City, StarChefs CEO and editor-in-chief Antoinette Bruno pleaded to every attendee that if they leave the three-day conference with just one resolution, let it be to stop using one ubiquitous item: plastic straws.
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“Americans use more than 500 million plastic straws every day,” she said. “Straws are among the top 10 types of debris floating in our oceans. Casual restaurants and fast food chains certainly send the bulk of that number out into the world, but everyone in the industry can do their part.”
A handful of restaurants around New York City have led this initiative. At Graffiti and Graffiti Earth, chef Jehangir Mehta says they have eliminated plastic straws. Even the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group has rid its restaurants of plastic straws, which is a major move from such a high-profile group. At an October fundraiser for the Plastic Pollution Coalition and The Last Plastic Straw, where Mario Batali was awarded a certificate of business and community leadership for banning plastic straws in his 20 restaurants, he asserted that the wasteful invention must be abandoned.
"Single-use plastic is an idea whose time has come and gone," he said at the event. "No more plastic straws in my 20 restaurants." This translates to removing approximately a quarter of a million straws and stirrers from the waste stream in one year estimates Elizabeth Meltz, the director of environmental health for the restaurant group.
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Restaurateurs and bartenders are left with two eco-friendlier options. You could eschew straws altogether when building a cocktail, which would sometimes require creativity but wouldn’t be detrimental to a cocktail’s integrity. Or, you could opt for a straw that’s made of paper or metal. While the former is still single-use, paper is compostable. Metal, on the other hand, can be washed and therefore used an infinite number of times.
PACKnWood, a producer of eco-friendly goods, had a booth at the convention, where they displayed their various serving plates, flatware and containers. They also displayed their paper straws, through which guests sucked down everything from birthday cake milkshakes to horchata during the convention. What makes their straws effective is their bee’s wax coatings, which prevents them from becoming soggy in drinks. This is frequently the number-one complaint involving paper straws, and PACKnWood has heard consumers’ demands.
Speaking to The Washington Post, Last Plastic Straw founder Jackie Nunez said, “The Plastic Pollution Coalition estimates that 1,800 restaurants, organizations, institutions and schools worldwide have gotten rid of plastic straws or implemented a serve-straws-upon-request policy,” including Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom and food concession areas in Smithsonian Institution museums. Therefore, the movement is not stagnant or slowing — it is just starting.