MISSOULA – Some large organizations across the United States are shifting away from plastic straws in hopes of having a positive impact on the environment.
But it’s not just businesses. Some entire cities are now banning plastic straws.
Seattle became the first U.S. city to ban single-use plastic straws and San Francisco has followed suit.
Although there is no ban to in Missoula, a few businesses in the city are offering alternatives to plastic straws.
The topic of plastic pollution is at the forefront of “going green” discussions. It involves real concerns about how this waste is impacting humans and also our wildlife.
Starbucks, UK McDonald’s, American Airlines, Walt Disney Company and other giants recently announced their plans to help combat this issue by pivoting to a more environmentally-friendly straw.
Glenda Bradshaw is the Hauling Manager with Republic Services: Waste and Trash Service.
“When businesses help us make the right decisions and make that easy for us to do that’s when significant change is going to happen more rapidly. We all want to make the right decisions," said Bradshaw.
Some might say straws are small and aren’t the real problem, and those people aren’t wrong.
An environmental study from the University of Georgia found that if all the straws jumped into the ocean, they’d account for roughly 0.03% of the eight million metric tons of plastics estimated to enter the oceans annually.
But Bradshaw says an alternative for straws is a step forward.
“It adds up. Straw usage is unfortunately all too common today, so even though it starts out small by the end of it, later we collect it all, it ends up being quite a bit and it often does not get recycled," Bradshaw said. "I think it’s a great change to make. It’s usually a single-use item, as well. You use it once and unfortunately, probably it’s not getting recycled.”
Although Missoula is not banning straws, some local businesses are getting on board with offering a green choice.
Café Dolce has not stopped using plastics but they are hoping their customers will swap the standard plastic straw with a $3 stainless steel straw. It’s a utensil you can continuously use, as long as you don’t lose it.
Green Source, Big Dipper, Good Food Store and Five On Black are just a few other local businesses offering an environmentally friendly choice.
“On the last round of compostable products that we’ve purchased they are as cheap or cheaper than the plastic ones we were using," Big Dipper General Manager Bryan Hickey said. "I was surprised when I got the quote from some of our reps. I was expecting it to be 5, 10, 15 cents more expensive per item and what I was finding was there really wasn’t much of a price difference.”
Whether it’s a paper, wood or stainless steel option, employees of these companies are hoping it’s the first phase in a much larger push to re-use, reduce and recycle.
“If we step-by-step live in a place in a world where we have reduced waste by that much per person, that’s a lot," said Elizabeth Anderson with Café Dolce. "If you think for a second about all the straws you’ve used, plastic wraps, or this or that, it’s horrifying."
It takes up to 200 years for a plastic straw to fully decompose and it’s the 11th most common trash item found in the ocean.