Saturday, 28 April 2018

Clutching At Straws

Today I am sorting out catering for a big Baptist Event, whilst Bob is organising the PA. Fortunately the venue has its own gear - we couldn't fit food and PA kit into the Aygo. It would have been a struggle even in the dear-departed Skoda.
I am extremely pleased that delegates have been asked by the organisers to bring their own refillable water bottles and hot-drink mugs. All my 1 litre swing-top water bottles will be going so that they have water on hand. It is important that we try as hard as we can to set a good example about 'disposables'. We won't have proper crockery/washing up facilities.
People will collect paper lunchbags, and sandwiches wilI be wrapped in paper not plastic. Accommodating the 'special dietary needs' people who are having boxed salads has been rather more problematic.

But this has highlighted another dilemma with which I am currently wrestling...
Plastic straws.
I heartily endorse the decisions of many of the take-away chains to stop providing these.
But here's the 'mocktail bar' equipment. I've been doing the A-bar for years now [since the late 1980s]

I have a vast collection of glasses- and usually drinks are served with an umbrella, a piece if fruit [on wooden cocktail stick] and a plastic straw - usually a regular one cut in half. I'm happy to give up the umbrellas, not quite so fussed about the fruit-on-a-stick [you can always slice the lemon and hang it on the rim of the glass] But the plastic straws?
You see, when I was doing these bars on a very regular basis I decided to invest in proper glasses and the other equipment I needed. I did a humungous bulk purchase on these a number of years ago, as it seemed good economic sense at the time. [Liz will tell people that I brought up my family with 'an Iron Thrift'] When I say a humungous purchase, I mean just that - thousands of brightly coloured bits of plastic. An event could easily get through 200 half-straws in an evening. I don't think I have bought any straws for a decade. I still have plenty neatly stored away. They are not just for the A-bar, they have also been frequently used for craft activities in school or church.
I am not posting another distressing picture of turtles suffering with straws in their nostrils. But I am aware that our oceans are full of shoals of these discarded hazards.
My question - what do I do with all the straws I currently have in store? Dear friends, please can you share your thoughts on this one? I have various solutions before me...
  1. I just continue using them as before. Leave worrying about the planet to David Attenborough.
  2. I leave them in the box in the loft and just forget about them.
  3. I refuse to use them ever again, and chop them up into small pieces, then put them all immediately in the wheelie bin [sadly the landfill bin, not the recycling one]
  4. I burn them all on a bonfire, to avoid sending them to landfill. 
  5. I only use them for craft activities
  6. I use up the stocks I have - but display a sign by the bar saying something like "single- use is better than no-use. Rather than waste these, I am using up my existing straws, but once they are gone, that's it!"
  7. Something else?
I'm really a bit uncomfortable about all these responses. 
What would YOU do?


  1. I'd do (6) - otherwise they are completely wasted. Call me cynical, but I'm not convinced that 'landfill' always ends up at landfill/incineration. Failing that, (5) but definitely use them, don't bin them.

  2. I also have the same dilemma however I've taken some to guides to be used as part of games and craft activities. But at the end of the day they will end up in the bin and on to the landfill tip site next to our sea. I'm also interested to hear other people's suggestions.

  3. I have the same problem, like you I bought in bulk many years ago. I think the best solution is using them up in craft activities but will be interested to see if another reader comes up with a better idea for both of us !

  4. They are here now. If not you, someone will eventually discard them, perhaps someone less responsible. I would take them out of circulation for good and burn them. The products from burning them will be neglible in comparison.

  5. We've been talking at church about using plastic or poly cups or cardboard cups versus real cups. Most people want real cups but also want somebody else to do the washing up... The second choice is the card cups as they can be recycled. Then I say that there is only one place in Britain which can recycle these and it isn't near us. So we are still using poly and plastic cups while the discussions continue. I agree that we should be setting an example.

    If it were me, I would tell people that I am using up my stocks of plastic straws and then not buying any more.

    1. You should do what we do at our music camp. We all select a mug to drink out of and then on a table (covered in oil skin), you place 2 buckets- one half filled with hot soapy water (with a sponge in) , 1with warm plain water and then a plastic crate and people have to wash their own mug up without going in the kitchen, they rinse and it goes in a tray. We've been doing it there for 40years and it works a treat!

  6. Id go with #6 - you've already spent the funds, so no use wasting the money. Posting a notice shows people the reason why you are still using them but what your future intentions are - otherwise, what would you do? They have to be disposed of one way or another...

  7. It’s #6 for me too but make a point that you will be taking them out of circulation by burning them after use.
    I stopped having free coffee from Waitrose when I found out the cups were non recyclable but never remember my own cup! We have to make small changes. Glass milk bottles, paper bags etc where we can.

  8. Even if straws are banned, they will still be needed in limited numbers for those people who can only drink through a straw. Could you find a charity working with people with disabilities which could make use of them, say a day centre?

  9. I know this dilemma as I have a box of plastic straws too. I always used them more than once anyway. I would say, could they be washed up and used again? Otherwise, use up the ones you have, I'd say go with #6 and make a point that they won't be used in perpetuity.x

  10. comment via email from Helen I read about your concern about what to do about straws.
    I’d like to suggest that you donate them to a nursing home or Parkinson’s disease group. During the last year of my fathers life he needed a straw to drink. I know that some families although fully in agreement on single use plastic and waste are concerned by a blanket ban meaning they will be unable to source straws and help their loved ones drink safely.

  11. We have also been talking at work about what people with disabilities will do without plastic straws. Paper ones can go mushy. My daughter has a set of metal ones and apparently bamboo is a possibility. That won't help you with your mini straws though and they are a pain to clean out. FOW2 has a tiny brush to clean with. I think - like most people I would go with 6

  12. See if you can donate them; some places might not accept an opened box, etc. Otherwise, use them up until they are all gone. There used to be paper straws, when I was a child - they'd get all soggy and not remain open at the top after awhile. I wonder if they still make paper straws?


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