Don’t think that little plastic straw in your beverage is a big problem? Consider that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—comprised mostly of plastic—is now more than two times the size of Texas. Also consider that discarded straws hurt animals, like the endangered Costa Rican sea turtle with a straw lodged up its nose depicted in this heartbreaking video.
According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, an organization drawing attention to plastic’s environmental effects, Americans use over 500,000,000 plastic straws each and every day. The plastic never biodegrades; it simply breaks in smaller and smaller pieces. Currently plastic debris in the oceans outweighs zooplankton by a ratio of 36-to-one and by the year 2050, the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish. A simple way to start combatting this monumental problem? Stop using plastic straws.
The idea gained traction last year in coastal beach towns, and now, thanks to conservation organizations’ efforts, the movement has spread inland. Denver restaurants and bars are leading the charge to decrease the number of plastic straws they’re doling out to drinkers and diners.
When Kendra Anderson opened Bar Helix in RiNo four months ago, plastic straws were never considered. “We have been [straw-free] since day one,” she says. “My primary intention was to avoid contributing to the jaw-dropping environmental impacts associated with them, but a fantastic bonus was discovering I could buy stunning copper straws that matched perfectly with our back bar.”
Jason Snopkoski, Bar Director of Avanti Food & Beverage in the Highlands adds: “A lot of places purchase compostable straws, but don’t realize they are no more helpful than traditional straws if they aren’t used in conjunction with a commercial compost operation. We take it one step further by attempting to go as straw-less as possible. We’ll be training our staff and putting out signage and social media to help people understand why their drinks don’t come with a straw. And compostable cornstarch straws will be available by request.”
Other local restaurants reducing their straw usage include LoDo’s Wynkoop Brewing Company, LoHi’s Bamboo Sushi, and both Denver locations of Punch Bowl Social. Each has chosen to provide compostable or paper straws only upon request. Stoney’s Bar and Grill in Capitol Hill, which has composted straws for years, began providing them only by request just last month.
Ace Eat Serve, Steuben’s, and Vesta are in the process of removing plastic straws from their establishments as well. And the Denver Zoo also has a no-plastic-straw policy, opting for paper straws at its cafes and concessions. “[Plastic straws] can end up in exhibits and get eaten by the animals, which can lead to severe health issues,” says the zoo’s communications manager Jake Kubié.
Joining the cause is easy: When you dine out, request that your server or bartender leave the straw out of your beverage. For those who can’t sip without them, consider bringing along a reusable straw made of bamboo or stainless steel. You can purchase reusable straws at Zero Market at Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace.