Can you imagine a world-or at least country-with no plastic straws?

How else are you supposed to drink a milkshake and blissfully slurp the last few drops?

Same goes for margaritas and daiquiris.

The fact is that some drinks are more fun when consumed from a straw.

The Environmental Impact of Paper Straws

But slurping from a plastic straw comes at the determinant to the environment. According to a source quoted in this New York Post article, each day in America, there are 500 million plastic straws used. That’s a staggering 182 and a half billion straws every day.

Despite the ubiquity of plastic straws, some people counter that they are actually a small portion of total plastic detritus. According to New Republic, in an article covering the decision by Starbucks to phase out plastic drinking straws at all 28,000 of its worldwide locations by 2020, straws, along with plastic stirrers, make up only seven percent of all plastic trash in the environment (including on land).

Moreover, the total amount straws contribute to plastic pollution in the ocean is even less-four percent.

Does four percent sound like a big enough culprit that you should ban plastic straws at your restaurant?

The Movement to Ban Plastic Straws Has Already Begun

If your restaurant happens to be in Seattle, you don’t have a choice. That city banned plastic straws in bars and restaurants as of July 1st. Plastic straws are also verboten in Miami Beach, FL and Malibu, CA. New York City, San Francisco and Portland are in the process of phasing out their usage.

Food service company Bon Appetit will phase out plastic straws in all 1,000 of its cafes, which are located in 33 states. The expected phase out completion is September 2019.

And according to this ABC News report, McDonald’s, Marriott and Bacardi have also committed to eliminating straws. Perhaps the executives of these companies are genuinely concerned about the environmental impact from straws and other plastics. Or, perhaps it’s an attempt by these companies to bolster their sustainability image; maybe it’s both.

If your restaurant is not in a city or state that has already banned plastic straws or is considering doing so, which side of the debate should you take?

Clearly, if you’re concerned about the health of the world’s oceans, banning straws is a no-brainer. Although the amount of straws at your dining establishment is a drop in the ocean compared to the gargantuan amount of total plastic flotsam-5 trillion particles or 270,000 metric tons-every bit of plastic that doesn’t enter landfills or the ocean helps.

Ask Your Customers

If you’re sitting on the fence about banning plastic straws at your restaurant, ask your customers their opinion. Use social media to engage them. You can launch a poll on your Facebook page. And if you do support banning them, ask customers to post pictures of themselves sipping their favorite beverage without straws. Instagram would be best for this idea. However, if you decide to go this route, you might want to preemptively ban wine and beer pictures; hardly anybody uses a straw to drink wine or beer.

Keep in mind that if you do poll your customers, whether it’s via email or social media, you might trigger a political debate. If you want to keep your customers disengaged from the political ramifications of a straw ban, it might be best to make an executive decision yourself.

Always Have At Least A Few

Some of your customers may not be able to enjoy their beverage without paper straws, especially if they have a disability. Alternatives to plastic straws, whether they’re paper, corn or other biodegradable material or metal, do not provide the level of suction and support some people with disabilities require.

For this reason, even if you do decide to ban plastic straws from your restaurant, it might be wise to keep a small amount of them in stock for individuals with special needs.

Alternatives to Plastic Straws

But let’s circle back to the slurping conundrum at the very beginning….

It’s just not as much fun to drink certain beverages without a straw. And for this reason, keep in mind that you can always purchase paper straws. However, paper straws can disintegrate in hot beverages. That’s not good for the user experience.

And alternative straws might not be good for your bottom line.

For this reason, if you think that your customers’ enjoyment at your establishment will suffer even in the least bit by banning plastic straws, you might have to consider slightly raising prices to offset the cost of alternatives to plastic straws.

If you serve coffee, you can replace single-serve plastic stirrers with bamboo sticks. A case of 5000 (10 bags of 500) costs $25.

You’ll have to do some research to find a cost-effective solution. That is, if you decide to do anything at all.

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