We are currently in the middle of an awakening process and its not pleasant. Here in Hong Kong our addiction to single use plastic and its many negative down sides is being presented to us by mother nature in its ugliest form. Our beaches are choking with an unprecedented amount of single use plastic waste. Our society over the past 4 decades has infected itself, transforming from healthy common sense into a population suffering from a consumerism disease that finds bananas wrapped in plastic, presented on a styrofoam tray and then at the point of purchase thrust into another plastic bag. Something so ridiculous for an item of fruit that mother nature has given a perfect protective wrapping of its own.

Our addiction to plastic has no boundaries from the foods we eat, to the clothes we wear to the toys we buy for our kids. The one universal element however for all of the plastic in our society today, is that it will all be here in hundreds of years time, whether we like it or not.

On June 8th 2016, World Oceans Day, my brother and I launched a new project called ‘The Last Straw’. After years of seeing trash on our beaches we decided that enough was enough and rather continue as always, we needed to take action and tackle each individual item at source. The first on our list of the top 5 offenders was plastic drinking straws.

We sourced and tested out many suppliers and tweaked our paper straws to be as best as we could get, calling on my 20 years of food and beverage bar experience, and we aim to continue to improve where possible. We unveiled our project and the response has in the most part been fantastic and very encouraging. Even though the paper straws cost 3-4 times the price of plastic straws which was our fear, several of the more responsible bar operators just snatched them up, some even saying its not even a matter a price, its principle. What a breathe of fresh air to hear.

Many of the venues we have been in touch with have already been making great efforts to improve their businesses environmental footprint and these straws were another great addition to compliment their programs.

Then there have been the other venues and customers who are resisting change because of ‘inconvenience factor’. Some venue operators have declined to change because “they go soggy”, “customers prefer the plastic” or “we don’t want to risk our customers experience”. Listening to these comments and many others like them clearly outlines the overall issues we face as a society.

Changing lifelong habits is hard, but not impossible. We have gone back and bashed our heads together to try and understand the challenges facing us in changing a populations way of life and had some very enlightening discussions. Sitting in bars and watching people using our straws from afar and seeing where some of the comments would be stemming from, has been a fun experiment in observing human behaviour.

We are both over 40 years old so were exposed to paper straws and their restrictions when we used them as kids. What we have concluded is that with so many of the drinking population under 40, they would likely have never drank a drink through a paper straw in their lifetime, only knowing plastic. Watching people drinking and how they ‘fiddle’ with straws as a nervous past time whilst chatting with friends has been interesting.

Many people are “chewers” and like to bite their plastic straws. Well, biting and chewing a bio-degradable paper straw is certainly going to end its chances of delivering a drink to your mouth!

Other people are “slouchers” who tend to sit or almost lie on the table and are used to the flexible bendy plastic straws that can deliver drink around the bend, over the lip of the glass and down to their waiting mouth. Bending a paper straw, immediate catastrophic failure!

It is because of people simply never having been exposed to using a paper straw that they then complain that they go soggy, fall apart, collapse or another failure that they never got with a plastic straw. Change is bad in many peoples eyes, however change must happen if we are to wean ourselves off the addiction to single use plastic.

For the minor inconvenience of a soggy straw that can be easily fixed immediately by just taking another straw if its that bad or learning the ways to drink from a paper straw properly, the decision to use a plastic straw is insane. To satisfy the needs of an individual to enjoy a drink for 20 minutes means that a plastic straw will be used and will remain somewhere on this earth for the next 200 years. Imagine that, the plastic straw you use today will still be around in 2216.

Imagine that, the plastic straw you use today will still be around in 2216.

Just because you don’t want the inconvenience of it maybe going soggy on you, future generations will be plagued with your trash. What we are seeing on the beaches right now today is a precursor of what is to come in the future if we continue along this route.

The alternative paper straws will be long gone in a month or so, dissolved back into nature. Better still, don’t use a straw at all. Just like the banana and its natural packaging, nature gave us an amazing and very versatile set of lips that can adapt to all shapes and sizes to make a good seal that allows the transfer of liquids to the mouth without spillage, its quite novel, some should try it!

The challenges we are facing with our paper straws only echo slightly the giant challenge we face as a society. However when we look at the state of our beaches and the serious issue we are facing with our trash coming back to haunt us, it is a challenge we must all take onboard and embrace, for the future of our planet and the health of our oceans.

How to Use a paper straw

1. Do Not Bend
2. Do Not Chew
3. Do Not Squeeze
4. Do not use as a muddling stick to pulverise fruit

Just sip out of it….and enjoy the drink knowing you are NOT contributing to the plastic pollution problem.

Up until 1990, McDonalds used to serve its Big Mac and all other sandwiches in polystyrene clam shell boxes. When they decided to switch to the greener recycled cardboard box there was an uproar…….. for a few months!!!! Now most people won’t even remember they were ever serving them up in polystyrene.

Change is possible and we hope to live in a future where people remember the old days when we used to use plastic straws, imagine that, what were we thinking using plastic on an item we use for only 20mins at best????? We live in hope…..

Change starts with Awareness. Please consider sharing this on your favourite Networks.

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