Edmonton restaurant ditches plastic straws

An Edmonton restaurant is joining a growing movement to ban what many consider to be a tiny plastic menace at the dinner table.

Environmental concerns are the last straw for Workshop Eatery owner, chef Paul Shufelt

Plastic drinking straws will no longer be offered at the Workshop Eatery in Edmonton. (Dmitry Galaganov/Shutterstock)

An Edmonton restaurant is joining a growing movement to ban what many consider to be a tiny plastic menace at the dinner table.

Workshop Eatery is eschewing straws.

The restaurant ditched straws for the first time last month and the ban will be permanent, said owner and head chef Paul Shufelt.

The boycott is in an attempt to cut down on waste. Single-use straws that don't end up in landfills pollute the world's oceans with plastic waste, he said.
Paul Shufelt decided to ban straws at his Edmonton restaurant last month. (chefpaulshufelt.com)
"We made the decision, primarily for the environment," Shufelt said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. "It just seemed like a luxury we didn't need anymore.

"They can't be recycled. There is really nothing you can do with them. They just end up in the landfill, or worse, in the lakes or the oceans."

Shufelt estimates the small eatery was going through more than 150 straws a day.

"It adds up. You don't think about it as your putting them out one at a time, bringing a water to a table, but then you start doing the math."

 'A frivolous luxury'

Shufelt said he had been toying with the idea for months, when he realized his restaurant in the Summerside neighbourhood was on its last box of straws.

He decided then and there: After the final straw in their storeroom was served to a customer, it really would be the final straw.

"I opened the cupboard where the straws are and the box was almost empty and kind of looked at it and paused and said, what are we doing this for?

"It just doesn't make sense anymore. It's a frivolous luxury that we've kind of become used to."

Shufelt isn't alone in his boycott. Restaurants across the country have been moving away from offering plastic straws and governments throughout Europe and North America are signaling their intent to ban them.

Scotland plans to ban plastic straws by end of 2019. Parts of Britain, the states of Hawaii and California, and the city of Seattle, have also set out their own plans to cut down on single-use plastic in the restaurant industry.

'We're not the first'

Shufelt said the change will likely save him hundreds of dollars each year. He intends to use those savings toward finding an alternative to the plastic straw.

He's been looking at bringing in bamboo or paper straws as an alternative, but will only provide them to customers upon request.
The Workshop Eatery is among dozens of restaurants across Canada to ditch the plastic straw. (Supplied)
 Shufelt said some of his servers and bartenders were initially concerned how customers would receive the change.

But in the weeks since the last straw was used up, patrons have been surprising unperturbed by the new approach.

He hopes other restaurants will follow suit and ditch the straw.

"We've had a tone of overwhelmingly positive feedback," said Shufelt.  "Only one or two people have asked for a straw.

"We're not the first in the city to do it, but hopefully if we do it, the rest will follow."