Bars and bakeries are doing it. So are pizzerias and sushi restaurants. A raw bar, a mountain spa, an herbal apothecary and the concession stands at Hogle Zoo are on board, too.
During the past three months, 82 businesses along the Wasatch Front have stopped handing out plastic straws to customers, keeping possibly 410,000 plastic utensils per month from going into landfills, said Erin Sanders, director of the Strawless in SLC campaign.
“That exceeded our original goal, “ she said. “It’s incredible to see how the community has responded to this.”
In March, organizers of Strawless in SLC asked restaurants, bars and other businesses to stop handing out plastic straws, hoping to get at least 50 signed up by Earth Day in April.
The group also launched a petition drive so that Utahns could show support for the cause. To date, more than 850 people have signed at change.org.
Sanders said the goal has never been to eliminate straws, “because some consumers need them to drink liquids.” Rather, the group wanted to show that there were better options than plastic.
Restaurants were encouraged to switch to paper or biodegradable straws and offer them only when customers request them.
“We wanted to educate them about the alternatives,” said Sanders.
A variety of businesses have taken the strawless pledge, including Taqueria 27 (five locations); Tsunami (four); Vive Juicery (three); Este Pizza and Deli (four); and Trolley Wings (two).
The biggest boost to the campaign came when Utah-based Costa Vida signed on for all 41 of its locations, said Sanders.
The concessionaire that operates all the restaurants and gift shops at Hogle Zoo also is devoted to the cause, said Erica Hansen, the zoo’s community relations coordinator.
“We are big proponents of no plastic,” she said, noting that soon the zoo will be switching to cups with “a sipper lid” that doesn’t require a straw. Several years ago the zoo’s gift shops stopped using plastic bags.
Straws and lids have been found in animal enclosures in the past, she said, so getting rid of plastic helps mitigate that.
“But being a zoo, which are at the forefront of the plastic crisis and what it is doing to wildlife globally, we want to be an example to the community,” Hansen said. “The little changes we make, can have a global impact.”
Hansen said plastic and the harm it causes to the oceans and wildlife will be discussed Friday, when Hogle Zoo celebrates World Oceans Day. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., guests can participate in educational discussions, crafts and children’s activities on the subject.
Sanders said Strawless in SLC is continuing its no-straw push, reminding restaurants they can still take the pledge.
The strawless movement gained traction in Seattle, where more than 150 restaurants agreed to stop using plastic straws. Since then, it has taken hold in other large cities from Florida to California and in Europe.
Americans throw away about 500 million one-time-use plastic drinking straws every day — enough to wrap around the Earth twice, according to StrawFree.org, a Southern California group committed to the elimination of single-use plastic straws.
Most plastic straws come from restaurants and businesses that provide them for drinking smoothies, juices, water and cocktails.
It is estimated that a medium-size restaurant will use and dispose of about 5,000 straws a month. The majority are not recycled and end up in the landfill or polluting oceans.
Lightweight plastic straws also are problematic for recycling companies, because they drop through sorting screens and mix with other materials.
Taking the pledge
The following Utah businesses have agreed to stop handing out plastic straws
Costa Vida (41 locations)
Current Fish & Oyster
Greek Streak 2 (Logan)
Good Grammar Bar
Este Pizzeria (3)
Kyoto Japanese Restaurant
Natural Law Apothecary
The State Room
Stein Eriksen Spa
Taquera 27 (5 locations)
Trolley Wing Co. (2)
Tsunami Restaurant and Sushi Bar (4 locations)
Vive Juicery (3)
Zest Kitchen and Bar