Climate Crisis and the Environment

The Final Straw

Matt takes a look at changing recycling attitudes in Nottingham chains.

While you’re sitting in a Starbucks, what is it you see? Aside from the writers pretending to write their first novel and students studying with a hazardous flow of cold brew, perhaps look for the green. No, not the money, nor Starbucks’ logo, but the straws. Straws have become a meaningless item, never given a second thought. As the University of Nottingham is rated the number one most environmentally conscious university in the world, we here at Impact decided to take a look at one of the smallest hazards being thrown straight into the bin.

Of course, Starbucks is not the single chain to be blamed here; they are merely a more significant example to put up for display. Recent events though have been taking place where pubs such as Wetherspoons have quickly banned them altogether, others transitioning to compostable paper straws, yet the majority of restaurants, bars and café’s have yet to act in any shape or form. With this in mind, there have been many other actions taken to get rid of the general usage of plastic itself, or, at the very least, to lessen its existence.

“Campaigns against the use of plastic have been circulating the world of environmental protection even further than ever before”

In different parts of the world, countries have come together in the fight against plastic by ban plastic bags. According to National Geographic, these countries include China, Kenya, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Macedonia and France especially. Looking at the single state of California though, you can see cities such as San Francisco that have banned polystyrene, Styrofoam cups, plastic containers, packaging peanuts and even fun little beach toys.

While these are the ideal routes to be taken, other countries have taken up “Option B” implementing a small charge towards a single plastic bag, and it indeed has been successful in some areas, especially here in the UK.

In light of these circumstances, campaigns against the use of plastic have been circulating the world of environmental protection even further than ever before. Londoners are now at the centre of a current campaign known as “Straw Wars”, a movement fully supported by those in Soho, London. The campaign’s website makes a note of the outrageous 3.5 million straws used each day by McDonald’s consumers alone.

“The ability to change is not impossible”

What is even more interesting is a campaign on the other side of the world in Starbucks’ hometown – Seattle, Washington. At the face of the #StopSucking campaign is Adrian Grenier, known for his role in Entourage and was recently tagged as the United Nations’ Environment Programme Goodwill Ambassador. While the campaign is still only a movement, it is certainly bound to stir the pot over there in the PNW’s Evergreen State (Washington State).

As far as Nottingham goes, we indeed have taken our own steps onto a greener and more ecological path. Revolution, just over in Hockley, has banned stirrers in drinks and has significantly reduced, but not yet banned, straw usage in their drinks. Last Chance Saloon took the leap from plastic straws to paper ones, and Be At One switched over to corn-based compostable plastic, degrading in just under 8 weeks. With these both big and small gestures, it gives the people of Nottingham the ability to see that healthy initiative in going green.

The ability to change is not impossible, but highly doable. I have found myself ordering venti cold brews without any need for straws, but this can’t be applied to every drink at Starbucks. Those Strawberry Mocha Frappuccino’s with skim milk, yet heavy on the whipped cream, just can’t be sipped on without a proper straw.

A simpler solution is perhaps to separate the straws into their own recycling bin. While all plastic can be tossed into the recycling bins, most Starbucks have just one container for all the customer’s rubbish. Another more likely choice is the use of compostable straws, made of either paper or corn-based compostable plastic, just as Be At One has accomplished. This battle will continue though, and if you haven’t realised it just yet, the environmentalists are at the bottom of the hill, slowly picking up the rubbish along the way.

Matthew Johnson

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