Simcoe County restaurants remove straws from their menus
BARRIE, Ont. — After answering a temporary call to remove plastic straws from their menus, several Simcoe County restaurants will continue with the practice.
Don Kellett, owner of Donaleigh’s Irish Public House in Barrie, Ont., noticed a similar challenge while visiting British Columbia. He approached Explore Lake Simcoe to spearhead a local competition.
“It’s something people can easily grasp on to, and it represents a commitment to environmental conservation,” said Aileen MacMillan, sustainable tourism project coordinator at Explore Lake Simcoe. “It’s not necessarily going to be the end of waste diversion efforts, but it has an educational component to it.”
The challenged launched in January with 10 restaurants participating, agreeing to only provide straws upon demand.
“The ones that responded positively saw it as a win-win situation,” MacMillan said.
When the competition concluded six weeks later, 18,000 straws were saved from the waste stream and nine of the participating restaurants decided to continue with the on demand policy. Other businesses are also showing an interest in adopting the policy.
“It’s something that is taking on a life of its own,” MacMillan said. “A couple restaurants had started, but didn’t broadcast it. Another was already using compostable straws. It was a natural extension of what they were doing.”
At Donaleigh’s Irish Public House, straws were once provided with every glass of water served at the 550-seat pub. Kellett stopped that practice in November, eliminating the use of 40,000 straws.
“That’s 40,000 straws that aren’t in a garbage pit or worse, in our waterways,” Kellett said. “Straws are one of the biggest culprits for ending up in waterways. We have a social responsibility to do something about it.”
For Kellett, eliminating plastic straws was another pillar in his business’s approach to waste diversion. The pub also eliminated Styrofoam containers and recycles cigarette butts.
“We wanted to do something and start different steps to become a greener restaurant and become more socially responsible,” he said, noting they now stock biodegradable straws, which are distributed on request.
The policy was a marketing success for Donaleigh’s.
“It was shared and sent all over the Internet, we had a lot of positive feedback,” Kellett said. “We’ve had no issues with it, 99.99 per cent of customers are on board.”
MacMillan added the message is as important as the reduction in waste.
“It sends a message that there are many simple small actions you can take without having to sacrifice,” she said. “It’s also a way for many of the restaurant owners to communicate their commitment to sustainability.
“They have other practices in place as well.”