Straws. What are they good for? Absolutely nothing.
Single use plastic straws that is. Millions of them are used every day for a few minutes but their impact can last for hundreds of years.
They end up on our streets, beaches, parks and in our waterways and seas.
They also end up in our wildlife. Thousands of seabirds, marine mammals and sea turtles die every year from plastic pollution.
Environmentalists say that plastic straws should be on the hit list of items to ban, along with carrier bags, single-use plastic bottles and microbeads from cosmetics.
It’s not a new problem but it’s gaining momentum, thanks to David Attenborough’s powerful message in the final episode of the BBC1 series Blue Planet, when he called on viewers to do more to protect the environment and help reduce plastic waste.
Now more and more businesses are signing up and either restricting the use of plastic straws in bars and restaurants or getting rid of them completely. And suppliers are struggling to meet demand for environmentally-friendly alternatives.
So what’s going on in Manchester?
Pub chain JD Wetherspoon have stopped using plastic straws and All Bar One, Pizza Express, Costa Coffee and Wagamama have all committed to getting rid of them.
The Laundrette is the latest Manchester bar to stop using them. The cocktails and carbs specialists on First Street have joined the #StopSucking campaign organised by environmentalist group Strawless Ocean.
Randall & Aubin uses paper straws. Way back in 2012, managing director and co-owner Jamie Poulton was one of the pioneers of Straw Wars, a campaign to eradicate plastic straws from restaurants and bars in Soho, where its original restaurant is located.
Gaucho recently announced they are beginning the process of phasing out plastic straws in all of their restaurants and replacing them with a biodegradable alternative. They will now be using one black, paper straw per drink, which is fully recyclable and naturally biodegradable.
Atlas Bar have been sourcing re-usable coffee cups and a cost effective bio-degradable straw.
“We felt really strongly that we should be making a stand on this issue,” says co-owner Elaine Wrigley. “We have found the coffee cup and are literally awaiting the branded pro-type to sign off. We plan to phase out the current cups as soon as we receive these.”
1761 & Lily’s Bar are moving to paper straws for a very good reason – they’re about to unveil a 18,000 litre marine tank. The fishy eco-system will maintain live coral, home over 300 fish in an environment where they can breed and thrive, so plastic straws are out of the question.
The Victorian Chop Houses – Mr Thomas’s, Sam’s and Albert Square – will be declaring war on the plastic straw as soon as current stock is used up.
“This is an important subject, and one we are all obliged to support in every way we can,” owner Roger Ward told us.
For Gusto, plastic straws are part of the much bigger problem of plastic waste.
“We’re taking a wider view and looking at our use of single use plastics across the entire business,” says head of sales and marketing Chris Fielding-Martin.
Stopping the use of plastic straws may just be a drop in the ocean but, as it says on the Strawless Ocean website, one small change can have a big impact.
And it’s not much of a sacrifice to make. Apart from very young children or some elderly and disabled people, does anybody really need a straw to drink with?
Why not ask your favourite pub, restaurant, bar, or coffee shop to join the movement? And next time you’re offered a plastic straw, think about the impact on the environment and just say no.