An environmental organization's successful campaign to end the use of plastic drinking straws in restaurants and cafés in Tofino, B.C., is spreading to Vancouver.
Matthew Unger, chair of the Surfrider Foundation's Vancouver chapter, says his colleagues in Tofino have convinced more than three quarters of the businesses in their town to either completely eliminate plastic drinking straws or only make biodegradable ones available upon request.
"The idea is if you don't specifically ask for it, then it probably is something that you don't really need and shouldn't be wasted," Unger said.
Unger said the #StrawsSuck campaign, which started in March, is part of the organization's broader goal to reduce single-use plastics-like straws, plastic bags and take-out containers and keep them from landfills and oceans.
"[Single-use plastics] infiltrate our lives," he said. "They're made to last thousands of years and we're using them for seconds or minutes."
For those who prefer to use straws for hygienic concerns, Unger recommends paper or reusable straws.
The campaign targets consumers as well as businesses — Unger says businesses are more likely to ban plastics or offer alternatives if they know it's an issue their customers care about.
Getting people to think
Vancouver's Lupii Cafe is already on board. The self-proclaimed "zero waste" business doesn't use any disposables to serve its products.
"We offer no plastics, no paper that people can go and put in the wrong bin and end up in the landfill," said owner Lisa Papania.
While she acknowledges the eco-friendly policies of her small café in Champlain Heights likely have a minimal short-term impact, she hopes they have longer-term repercussions.
"Most of what we need to do is get people to start thinking about their behaviour," she said. "Getting people to think, 'Do I really need to suck my juice from a piece of plastic just so I can throw that piece of plastic away?'"
"Hopefully the next thing will be, 'Well if I don't need the straw, do I really need the lid?'"