Toronto bars starting to move away from plastic straws to save environment

A movement to stop giving customers disposable straws with their drinks is making its way through Toronto's bar scene in a bid to stanch the flow of plastic trash into the world's oceans.

Bar owners say straws are unnecessary waste, opt to use biodegradable straws for customers who need them

This sign hangs over the bar at Dakota Tavern on Ossington Avenue. The bartender says customers haven't really noticed the venue has stopped giving them straws in the last few months.

A movement to stop giving customers disposable straws with their drinks is making its way through Toronto's bar scene in a bid to stanch the flow of plastic trash into the world's oceans.  

One of the establishments that's changed it policy on straws is the Dakota Tavern on Ossington Avenue, which has stopped handing them out within the last few months.

"Basically, straws are harmful to sea turtles, as well as the environment in general," said Paige Peters, a bartender at the popular music venue where a sign saying "Straws Suck" hangs over the beer fridge.

"We just decided we didn't want to contribute to that anymore."

Peters is referring to a Youtube video of conservation workers prying a straw out of a sea turtle's nostril. The video was posted in 2015 and has been viewed over 12 million times.

Since then, the hashtag #strawssuck has been gaining momentum on Twitter.

Peters says the owners of the Dakota Tavern were initially a little nervous to cut straws out, but says most of their customers haven't noticed or expressed any concerns.

Paige Peters, a bartender at the Dakota Tavern, says most customers haven't noticed or expressed any concerns about the lack of plastic straws. (Michael Cole/CBC News)
 Gift Shop Cocktail Bar is also a part of the movement. The manager and bartender, who calls himself H, is passionate about the issue.

"I don't want this to be a trend, I want it to be a way of life," H told CBC Toronto.

The bar offers biodegradable straws if the customer asks for one. Bar staff are also mindful about the number of napkins they use as well. H says it's not only beneficial for the environment and waste reduction, but it's also more cost effective for his small bar.

"You have to look at the long term effects, not just short term," H said.

'Plastics do not biodegrade'

Franz Hartmann with the Toronto Environmental Alliance is happy to see businesses making an effort to reduce waste, adding that in a lot of cases people are given straws and don't even use them.

"What's important is bar owners are thinking twice about their environmental impact and asking what they can do to reduce that impact."

Hartmann says while he's pleased to see the movement catching on in Toronto bars, we need to be thinking about all of the plastic that's disposed of, not just straws.

"Plastics do not biodegrade, they just break down into smaller pieces of plastic and that ends up in our environment."

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