In case you haven’t heard, there’s a growing movement worldwide to stop using single use plastic straws. In Oregon, the Portland and Newport Chapters are leading the charge.
The Portland Chapter launched DitchTheStrawPDX in August 2017 and the Newport Chapter launched Ditch the Straw Lincoln County in January 2018. Both Chapters are taking a business-first approach by reaching out individually to businesses and supporting their switch to a straws upon request policy. Portland’s campaign requires businesses to only offer paper or reusable straws while Newport’s program encourages, but does not require, the use of alternatives.
Both Chapters have received a positive response from businesses and individuals about the programs. So far, the Portland Chapter has recruited more than 50 businesses, including well known restaurants such as Pok Pok, Bamboo Sushi, and Widmer Brothers Brewing. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has even tweeted his support for the campaign!
The Portland Chapter has also used some innovative ways of engaging businesses and individuals in the DitchTheStrawPDX campaign including Pub Crawls to help people practice adding “no straw, please” to their drink order and letter writing nights to encourage new businesses to join the movement.
Want to support the Portland Chapter while eating delicious food? Join St. Jack (a DitchTheStrawPDX restaurant) for a series of French bistro stye collaborative dinners! On June 4, Sarah Pliner of Aviary will be cooking dishes from Roger Vergé and on July 9, Katy Millard of Coquine will be channeling The Troisgros Family. Each dinner will feature three dishes each from Barnett and the guest chef and cost $150, including beverage pairings from sommeliers Brent Braun and Christopher Sky. Proceeds from the dinners go to SurfriderPDX, an organization attempting to eliminate plastic straws in Portland, with donations matched by the Helen and Richard Phillips Charitable Fund. Reservations are available at stjackpdx.com.
The Newport Chapter, which just started organizing their program in January, has hit the ground running, signing up more than 10 businesses with many more in discussions about switching to straws upon request. Initially focusing just on Newport, they expanded their program to Lincoln County at the request of residents in Waldport and Yachats.
In Newport, there is currently only one place to buy reusable straws so the Ditch the Straw Lincoln County Committee recruited a local glass artist to make straws and sell them in town! The Committee is currently testing out the prototypes and providing feedback to the artist in hopes to have the straws available soon.
Both globally and locally in Oregon, plastic straws are among the top 10 most commonly found items during beach cleanups. In the last 10 years, more than 4 million straws and stirrers have been removed during the International Coastal Cleanup. We use a straw for less than an hour, but that straw persists in the environment for longer than our lifetime.
If you’ve seen the video of the poor turtle having a straw removed from its nose, we probably don’t need to explain why plastic straws are bad for wildlife. And it’s not just turtles – in 2015, researchers found that at least 690 species worldwide on land and sea have encountered marine debris and 92% of encounters were with plastic.
Most of us don’t actually need to use a straw and there are plenty of alternatives to single-use plastic straws including stainless steel, bamboo, and glass. For restaurants, they can reduce the number of straws used by 40-60% simply by switching to a straws upon request policy. If a business cannot offer reusable straws, offering paper straws upon request is the next best alternative.
*What about compostable or biodegradable plastic straws?
“Compostable” plastics do not break down in the marine environment and are not actually compostable in many municipal systems (including Portland and Newport). In 2018, the Plastics Better Alternatives Now List was released, which examines the life cycle of plastics in the United States. The visual below, pulled from that report, highlights exactly why “alternative plastics” are not the answer.