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Can We Kick the Plastic Straw Habit for Good, Buffalo?

About six months ago, I was in a bar in downtown Buffalo, and I asked for a drink. Before serving it to me, the bartender took out a large plastic straw, dipped it into the drink, put her thumb over the top end, pulled it back out and put a small sample of the liquid into her mouth. She then grabbed a smaller plastic straw, placed it in my drink, and handed it to me. After taking a sip, I asked her, “When was the last time that you tasted one of these drinks with a straw and ended up pouring it out to start afresh?” She looked at me, smiled, and admitted “not since she learned how to make the drink.”

It’s estimated that Americans use and discard 500 million straws a day.

I thought about the two plastic straws that had simply gone to waste, and the amount of straws the bar must go through every night… every year. It must be astounding. Not only does the big tasting straw not make any sense, it’s a waste of money and an environmental slap in the face. Not to mention the tiny stirring straws that only get in the way when trying to drink. The darn things are more of a nuisance as they continue to poke you in the lip every time you take a sip. But old habits die hard, and getting people to change the way they do things can be very difficult.

This morning, a friend sent me the following video from Now This, which pretty much sums up how wasteful we humans have become. Not only have we not figured out how to stop using the small stir straws, some swank bars have actually incorporated an even larger tasting straw into the mix. When will we ever stop to think about the waste?

Written by queenseyes

queenseyes

Newell Nussbaumer is ‘queenseyes’ – Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world’s largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer | Newell@BuffaloRising.com

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  • Wally Balls

    Boredom. That’s the only thing that I can think of that would cause this article to be written. Absolute and total boredom.

    • ThichQD

      You yell at your girlfriend in public, are in 4 fantasy football leagues, wear Oakleys backwards on your head and never played catch with your dad.

      • Captain Picard

        What the HELL are you talking about?

        • ThichQD

          People who make comments like Wally Balls generally fit a certain profile. I am dead on trust me. Ask him to show you his collection of designer vape accessories.

          • Captain Picard

            Lulz.

          • BuffaloRepatriate

            I do none of the things you describe and I agree with Wally.

      • Wally Balls

        None of the above, Internet Tough Guy.

        • ThichQD

          Ha ha ha ha. Whatever you say..Wally Balls.

    • Lukia Costello

      Another utterly pointless opinion

    • Lukia Costello

      How about quality if life and the fact that we can’t keep being s thoughtlessly wasteful. Our air, water and land sustain you.

      • Wally Balls

        Yea, just this morning I woke up drowning in a sea of straws and stirrers. It was horror.

        • BlackRockLifer

          Apparently you don’t understand what a serious problem we have with plastic pollution. Take a look at any river, creek, lake or ocean, there is plastic debris everywhere. I have been on canoe trips in some of the most remote areas far from roads or civilization and guess what? there’s plastic junk in the water or hung up on the banks. Some of these plastics never break down while some slowly releases toxins and tiny plastic particles into our drinking water. This is a real issue that needs to be addressed.

          • Wally Balls

            Maybe you and your friends should stop throwing stuff in lakes and streams.

          • ThichQD

            Maybe you should spend another day watching Fast and the Furious on Blu Ray.

          • Wally Balls

            As soon as you return it to Family Video, let me know and I’ll check it out.

          • ThichQD

            No doubt

          • BlackRockLifer

            Trolls need to be funny, if not they are just inept trolls.

          • Wally Balls

            Is that why you tell so many jokes? I’ve always wondered.

  • Lori

    It’s a good point. I absolutely hate plastic straws. I’ve gotten into the habit of not using them if they’re placed on the table, still wrapped when my water or drink comes. But it’s still difficult to remember to explicitly ask that one not be included automatically.
    It’s such a little thing that adds up to something huge. We’ve come around to the idea that plastic bags aren’t necessary for every purchase, so it stands to reason that we should start looking at other plastics the same way.

  • streetwise

    Thanks for regurgitating a garbage facebook video to us.

  • BuffaLife

    These are the issues the citizens of Buffalo must care about. I don’t care if we properly develop our city into a world class destination as long as we eradicate plastic straws and leftover rice containers.

    There’s a platform for these thoughts and it’s called Facebook, not Buffalo Rising.

    • Marc Rebmann

      We can do both.

    • Lukia Costello

      Pointless comment

      • BuffaLife

        About as pointless as this site. I don’t get paid with advertising dollars for my comments, so I expect more from people who do, like the author of this post.

        And if I recall correctly, I’m entitled to my “pointless comment.”

        • Lukia Costello

          But what is the point, exactly? Your not the publisher. Your not paying a dime. It’s their decision and your comment ads nothing to the discussion. You’re just complaining and one is interested apart from you.

          • BuffaloRepatriate

            So “your” saying that Buffa doesn’t have the right to comment at all? I find it both funny and ridiculous that the author chose the plastic straw for his particular windmill to tilt at.

          • Lukia Costello

            Nope. Never said that.You’re misunderstanding me.

            The straw is a single use, non-essential item that we can all live without. Eliminating them is an easy first step in cutting back on the incredible amount of waste that we create without thinking. Waste that is filling out landfills, waterways, streets … Not to mention the waste that is created in producing them.

            Life would easily continue without plastic straws Think about it.

          • Johnny Pizza

            Worst argument I’ve ever heard.
            Life would continue without the drink ever being bought either. Life would continue without the internet and smartphones. Life would continue without parks. Life would continue if we built nothing but vinyl sided houses and buildings made of Dryvit, but nonetheless we debate these issues daily.

          • BuffaloRepatriate

            I disagree.

          • BuffaLife

            What is the point of your “pointless comment” comment? We can go around and around in circles, but I’m expressing my frustration that this site has devolved into rants about straws and rice containers. That’s my point, and also my opinion. And I’m all out of opinions and comments on this topic.

          • Lukia Costello

            Don’t visit the site if you don’t like it. Duh.

          • BuffaLife

            Ohhhh… That’s how this works! I’ve been using the internets wrong this whole time.

            I had better celebrate.

            What’s a good bar where I can get a nice drink and a few straws to pretty it up?

  • Matt Marcinkiewicz

    I have a neighbor who drinks coffee through a straw. I’d imagine you’d like to have a word with him

  • Johnny Pizza

    “It was then that my wife came up with a good idea. What if all of the Chinese restaurants had an option where the customer could donate a rice container to the food pantry, along with some packets of soy, duck sauce, etc? If the customer only received the amount of rice that he or she wanted, the rest could be allocated to those who would appreciate the gesture. Just think, by the end of the day, the number of customers who would have the chance to donate a pint or a quart of rice. Even if 15% of the customers made a donation, that would still be a lot of rice.”
    Let’s take the genius idea put forth for the rice containers but with plastic straws!! Bars will be clamoring to join the straw donation revolution.

  • BlackRockLifer

    Actually this is important, many of these straws end up in our waterways. I do a weekly litter pick up in the Market Square Historic District and often pull out plastic straws that are stuck in the storm sewer receivers, the ones I don’t get end up right in the river. We need to look at alternatives to plastic in so many items such as straws, coffee/beverage lids and six pack holders. These items are not just nuisance litter but also negatively impact our water quality as well as fish, birds and many other creatures.

  • Lukia Costello

    Yes please. I’ve trained myself to ask servers to leave the straw out. Creating legislation that requires restaurants to ask if someone wants a straw first would go a long way and save restaurants $.

    • grovercleveland

      Oh dear.

    • WeAreTheNormal

      Not everything needs to be legislated. There are better ways to create change than simply legislating. Don’t we have enough ridiculous laws on the books already?

      • Lukia Costello

        Sure. I understand your POV. However there are times, when only legislation can motivate change? How would you suggest, otherwise, in this case?

        • grovercleveland

          um, a restaurant could choose not to provide a straw. you could ask to not have a straw.

          or, OR, you could get over yourself.

          • Lukia Costello

            We’ll, this is not about me. It’s about protecting the resources that we need to survive. I care about your life too.

    • Johnny Pizza

      Legislation of plastic straws is absolutely absurd. This is something that will be solved by educating consumers and giving them a choice as implemented by a free market. We’ve seen this with things like organic food. Nobody told Tyson or Wegmans that must stop using steroids in their chicken. The market had a demand and the free market filled it.
      As it relates to saving money, I don’t really fully buy it. If a bar started this, every time a drink was ordered the bartender now needs to ask customers if they want a straw. That takes time (albeit 5 seconds) and thus money. Lets say a bartender makes 30 drinks an hour and it takes 5 seconds to address the straw issue for each drink. That’s 150 seconds or 2.5 minutes which cuts out the time needed to make a drink. So they serve one less drink each hour, thus losing money.
      If the drinks are rang up it will require additional printer paper and ink to now include a line that specifies whether a drink is with or without a straw, and that’s assuming that this level of detail even exists on existing POS systems. When a bar started to weigh the cost of a cheap plastic straw against the time and resources needed to implement the policy they might say forget it because the savings may not even be worth the trouble of changing.

      • ThichQD

        We had this conversation last year about the plastic shopping bags. People said it wasnt a problem, yet all you have to do is look up and the trees are decorated with them everywhere. Cashiers will double bag a carton of eggs and a loaf of bread. If they banned bags, or charged you a quarter for them, people would remember to bring their own. Straws a freaking stupid.

        • Johnny Pizza

          You’re dealing with two different problems though. Trash in trees and on sidewalks are a result of littering, for which there is already a regulation that prohibits it. Charging a quarter for the bag won’t stop someone who litters from throwing it on the sidewalk.
          The other problem is the trash is filling up landfills. Now that can be solved by charging people a quarter for them via some regulation. But my point is it doesn’t have to be. Wegmans could decide that they’ll charge 25 cents a bag for plastic which would encourage people to buy reusable bags. If enough people chose to go reusable it would be a win for Wegmans and the environment and from the perspective of the consumer who feels better about doing their part to curb waste. If it works well, maybe Tops jumps on board and the chain reaction continues until we put less plastic trash in the garbage or on the street.
          If its done through a regulation, now we have to hire people to make sure that Tops and Wegmans are paying their bag tax, because now the bag tax is needed to hire people to track the bag tax. Sure the same result can come of the tax but its value is greatly diminished because now the government needs to take a cut to operate Big Brother Agency for Plastic Bags and Straws. Its for this reason that I think regulation would be less effective than something a grocery store or bar could come up with.

          • Captain Planet

            I’d love to see Wegmans announce that they will no longer be supplying plastic bags. Give customers plenty of time to prepare, and then take the leap. A big win for the community and a huge feather in the Wegmans sustainability cap.

          • grovercleveland

            wegmans sells reusable bags for 99 cents. my wife and i have 6 of them.

            however, i dont carry them around everywhere because im not insane and some times i acquire them.

            when i do, they are used to collect cans and bottles, they are used for cat litter, they are used to bag my lunch, they are used for our bathroom garbage can.

            if those were not provided we would be buying small garbage bags. so really, what is the point of banning them?

          • Johnny Pizza

            That’s actually a great point. I personally keep a bunch of plastic bags for exactly those types of uses and when I get too many I recycle a bunch of them.

          • BlackRockLifer

            The plastic bags you get from grocery stores and department stores cannot be recycled through your home recycling bin, they must be returned to the store.

          • Captain Planet

            Because they are everywhere. Literally. Plastic bags have been found in the most remote areas in the world. Because they are petroleum-based. Because they pollute waterways and poison wildlife. Because they are unnecessary. You could use paper bags for everything you mentioned.

          • grovercleveland

            I suppose if you replace plastic with paper there will be no more trees for bags to get caught in.

            Of course somehow I’ve gone my entire life without seeing these plastic bags that folks see acting as a pool cover for the great lakes.

          • Johnny Pizza

            I don’t care if they supply the bags, but charge for them to incentivize people to buy the reusable bags they already carry. I really don’t think that Wegmans as the #1 ranked grocery store in WNY would be destroyed by implementing this policy.

      • Lukia Costello

        Ha. Yeah, don’t take any action. The market will take care of it all. Sure, sure.

  • Jessica L. Marinelli

    There are endless options for reusable or paper straws and drink stirs. Many restaurants have switched to linen napkins, glass, china, and silverware. It’s not much more to ask them to switch to reusable stirs and at least paper straws, if you as the consumer absolutely need a straw. There are also beautiful glass drink stirs. And as the consumer its partly our responsibility to encourage business owners and let them know we support them. We were the first county in the country to ban microbeads. Then other counties followed, and eventually the federal gov. What we as a community decide matters and can change public perception. Even if it takes a Facebook video to start the conversation.

  • Patrick McPicnic

    Couldn’t disagree more with the people saying that this is an insignificant topic. Plastic pollution needs to be taken seriously, particularly in a Great Lakes city like Buffalo.

    • grovercleveland

      I couldn’t disagree more with the people saying they couldn’t disagree more with the people saying that this is an insignificant topic.

  • geeeno

    i demand a straw cannon to eject the wrapper toward my little brother’s head. sometimes other customers become unintentional collateral victims. plastic would be spared if the missile could be rewrapped about the muzzle more easily. so what if the growing plastic volume in the oceans outpaces the fish.

  • Travis Carlson

    and maybe, uh, bottled water.