The Lies Of Greenwashing
Customers and governments are demanding sustainability from the hospitality industry. Bar and Restaurant owners are under urgent pressure to establish their venue's sustainable reputation to avoid being rejected by diners and punished by officials.
Straws have become the visible indication of a venue's sustainable and social consciousness. Environmentally unfriendly choices will repel potential customers so it is imperative that venues get this right.
Statistics show that the stakes are high for the hospitality industry when it comes to embracing sustainability:
73% of consumers say they would definitely change their consumption habits to reduce their environment impact.
81% of global respondents feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment.
38% of consumers say they’re inclined to pay higher-than-average prices for products with sustainable materials as sustainability can represent premium indicators such as quality, superior function and uniqueness.
But, the hospitality industry and their customers are being deceived by dishonest greenwashing campaigns. Business owners are investing into changing over their straw supply to an alternative that, they are being promised, will reduce their venue’s environmental impact. Distressingly, this is a lie.
Bio-plastic PLA straws are deceptively marketed as biodegradable and compostable.
What you aren't told is that bio-plastics must be disposed of in an industrial high heat composter in order to biodegrade.
Most businesses and their customers don't have access to this specific requirement. In a take-away situation, straws will end up in the public rubbish bins on the street. If used to dine-in, they will be disposed of in big black plastic garbage bags. Either way, they will end up in landfill or blow into the oceans, where they break down in exactly the same way as a normal plastic straw.
In landfill they will never decompose. In the ocean they will break up into microplastics, poisoning marine life and contaminating the human food supply.
There's a reason San Francisco have banned bio straws alongside plastic straws... unfortunately most government straw bans do not go far enough and do not address the scourge bioplastics are inflicting on the environment.
Many major paper straw brands are not FSC certified, meaning they are sourced from non-sustainable forests. FSC certification ensures that wood/paper products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits to the community local to the forest. Check for the FSC logo on your paper straw supplier's website... if it isn't there then the paper is likely not ethically sourced and is damaging the environment and contributing to deforestation.
Paper straws cannot be recycled once contaminated with food or drink, so will end up in the rubbish bin and likely disposed of encased in plastic bin bags. In landfill, a paper straw will never decompose as there is no oxygen (25% of all waste in landfill is paper!). Thankfully, however, if they are blown into the ocean they will decompose in 6 weeks (although this decomposition will emit CO2).
Paper straws quickly go soggy and taste awful, forcing venues to serve 2-3 per drink, increasing their use of single-use disposable straws. Customer experience is being compromised.
All disposable straws, whether plastic, paper, bioplastic, bamboo or even pasta, constantly waste the world’s finite resources (trees, land, water, energy, crops) as they are manufactured continually to be used for just a few minutes and discarded. Crops for bioplastic manufacture competes with food crops and contributes to deforestation and food shortages. Replacing disposable straws with another single-use item just defers the issue of disposable waste without addressing it.
Unfortunately, many chains have been so thoroughly duped that they are using their flawed straw alternative to promote their eco-initiatives. Bewilderingly, these huge efforts that venues have undertaken have had no positive impact on the environment and are just further misinforming the public.
The key to truly combating disposable waste is treating straws as another part of a bar or restaurant’s cutlery and embracing a circular economy where items are washed and reused.
Venues are starting to discover the spurious claims made by disposable straw brands. It’s time this was exposed for the lie it really is.