The last straw: Some P.E.I. restaurants look to reduce plastic use

Some P.E.I. restaurants are moving toward reducing the number of plastic straws they use by only serving straws if they are requested by customers.

'If we can eliminate such an unnecessary piece of garbage, it would be great to do so'

Edmonton city administration will look to other jurisdictions to determine what works in reducing or eliminating single-use plastic products. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

When you order a drink at some P.E.I. restaurants, it may arrive without a straw.

It's all part of an international push to reduce the number of single-use plastic straws ending up in the garbage.

The Red Island Hospitality Group operates four restaurants in downtown Charlottetown, P.E.I., and are already phasing the straws out.

"We've already begun to roll it out slowly where we ask the guest if they'd like a straw or not," said Steve Barber, co-owner of the Red Island Hospitality Group.

"We will eliminate the ask on the 8th [of April]. We'll definitely educate the guests as to why we're doing so and the benefits on not using a plastic straw." 

Reducing the amount of plastic straws used would dramatically reduce the amount of plastic in the ocean. (Rich Carey/Shutterstock)

Plastic straws are one of the 12 most commonly found items on Canadian shorelines. Restaurants and bars around the world are working hard to reduce the number used.

"Plastic straws seem very unnecessary in the long run," Barber said. 

"More or less the drink tastes the same whether it comes out of the glass or the straw. If we can eliminate such an unnecessary piece of garbage, it would be great to do so."

Beginning April 8, bartenders and servers at Red Island Hospitality Group restaurants will stop adding the plastic straws unless requested. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

Barber said the decision to stop offering customers straws came after a recent visit to Banff, Alberta, where he had noticed the local #StrawsSuck campaign had really taken off. 

If we're not serving as many straws, it is going to cut down on the amount of waste we have.— Steve Barber

He decided to make the change at the Group's four restaurants; Hunter's Ale House, Charlottetown Beer Garden and Seafood Patio, The Factory Cookhouse and Dancehall, and John Brown Richmond Street Grille.

Barber said it's an environmental move that will some save money.

They plan to eventually use the savings to swap over to the slightly more expensive paper straws, for when customers do request one.

"I mean, clearly, if we're not serving as many straws it is going to cut down on the amount of waste we have," Barber said. "It should be fairly significant."

Other Island restaurants are also planning a straw free operation.

Lobster On the Wharf plans to reduce the number of straws they use when they open in May for the summer season.

"Drinks that you might expect to get a straw in, like whether that's a highball glass or whether it's a pop or water, we are not going to serve straws automatically," said Steven Larkin, owner of Lobster On the Wharf.

Larkin estimates the seasonal business can go through 15,000 to 20,000 straws during the six months of operation.
Some people prefer drinks like the Caesar to come with a straw to avoid putting their lips on the commonly celery salted rim. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

"It's really an easy way to try and do something to lessen the impact of the business on the environment."

Larkin said it wasn't a financial decision but was the right time to do it.

"There are those people who have different sensitivities or maybe they need a straw to drink their beverage in general ... we will just accommodate that.'— Steven Larkin

He said straws would still be available for those drinks that may be difficult to drink without one.

"There are those people who have different sensitivities or maybe they need a straw to drink their beverage in general. We are not going to sit there and question that, you know, we will just accommodate that."

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With files from Tom Steepe