End plastic straw use in pubs now, urges joint campaign

By Claire Churchard

- Last updated on GMT

Last straw: the joint campaign is urging pubs to end the use of plastic straws and stirrers
Last straw: the joint campaign is urging pubs to end the use of plastic straws and stirrers

Related tags Plastic straws Recycling Government

An industry-wide campaign to cut the amount of single-use plastic being used in pubs has been launched in partnership by three major industry bodies and The Morning Advertiser.

Pubs, and the wider hospitality sector, are being urged to stop using plastic straws and stirrers, to reduce plastic packaging waste and recycle more as part of campaign calls backed by the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII), the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and the MA​. 

Alternatives to​ plastic straws:

1) Biodegradable ‘plastic’ or polylactic acid​

2) Metal​

3) Straw straws​

4) Bamboo​

5) Glass​

6) Paper​

7) Go naked​

The campaign is a response to growing concerns that plastic waste is choking the world’s oceans, polluting the environment and killing wildlife, as highlighted in the recent Blue Planet II​ series narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

Early adopters

Many pub and bar groups including Oakman Inns, Ei, Be At One and JD Wetherspoon have already taken action to cut plastic straw use (see box for full list) by either bringing in alternative biodegradable straws or only giving straws to customers that request them.

The campaign urges all pubs to remove plastic straws and stirrers from their premises completely.

Critical debate

An industry-wide summit will be held in late March to raise awareness of the issue, showcase ways to cut unnecessary plastic use and highlight work the industry is doing with the Government to address the problem.

Mike Clist, chief executive of the BII, said: “We have reached a point where there is almost unanimous support from across the political spectrum, and among the general public, that we must do more to tackle plastic waste, both individually and as businesses.

“Pubs and bars have already begun to cut plastic usage through schemes such as removing plastic straws and stirrers from venues, but there is a great opportunity for us to work collectively and share ideas to help spearhead the campaign against disposable plastic use.”

Pub companies that have taken action to reduce plastic straw use:​​

  • JD Wetherspoon
  • Liberation Group
  • Oakman Inns
  • All Bar One
  • Laine Pub Co
  • Redcomb Pubs
  • Be At One
  • Ei Group

Socially responsible change 

ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls added that the campaign represented an opportunity for the sector to continue to lead on an important issue. “We all firmly believe that our sector is innovative and resourceful; this is a chance to prove to the Government that we are socially responsible drivers of change as well as vital economic assets,” she said.

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the BBPA, said: “We support action to reduce the use of plastic and our members are looking to supply plastic straws in pubs only when asked.  We are working with BII and others to look at bio-degradable alternatives and the recycling capacity for such products.”

Efforts to protect the environment by reducing plastic have moved up the political agenda, with the launch of the Government’s 25-year plan in early January. It included actions targeting plastic such as expanding the 5p charge to all plastic bags.

Government backing

Environment Minister Therese Coffey told the MA​: “We have made it clear in our 25-year plan for the environment that reusing and recycling plastics is critical if we are to stem the damage to our seas and wider natural environment.

“The hospitality industry is well-placed to help reduce unnecessary plastics, and it is encouraging to see some pubs, clubs and restaurants already taking action.

“We will continue to crack down on plastics by eliminating all avoidable plastic waste through extending the 5p plastic bag charge to small retailers, remove consumer single-use plastics from the Government estate, support the water industry to significantly increase water fountains and work with retailers on introducing plastic-free supermarket aisles.”

China bans imports

The UK’s imperative to cut plastic waste was further highlighted at the beginning of 2018 as China banned all plastic waste imports, raising concerns that waste collected in the UK to be shipped to China for recycling would start to pile up.

Oakman Inns was one of the first multi-unit operations to reduce the use of plastic straws back in April last year. Company founder Peter Borg-Neal said: “We did it overnight – we didn’t wait for a few months to see how the wind was blowing. If people wanted a straw of course we provided it, and we now have a compostable straw supplied by Vegware.

“The bottom-line is that we did it because it was the right thing to do for everybody. The reality is that most people don’t even ask for a straw, and those that do are given these new straws. What we all have to do is to make a start on getting these issues sorted out for ourselves.”

End use of plastic straws and stirrers

Clist added: “As an industry there are many small changes we can make that will make a big impression. I am routinely given a plastic straw or a stirrer with my drink when I never need one. “These straws and stirrers inevitably end up in a bin and then on a landfill. Changing policies and training methods so that straws are not automatically given to customers and switched from plastic to biodegradable is a good start. If you have not already made this small-but-effective step then you should, before lending your support to an industry-wide campaign that can make a difference.”

Earlier this year MP Andrew Griffiths, now Small Business Minister, wrote to the pub companies in his constituency asking them “to stop using single-use plastic straws and stirrers”.

  • To show support for the campaign tweet what you plan to do to reduce plastic waste in your pub using #TheLastStraw @morningad 

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