Straws are so convenient for us humans!  We don’t have to tilt our head too far back when drinking.  It minimises repetitive arm movement.  You can shoot the papers ends off them at your friends.  You can slurp loudly during movies.  Straws make people’s lives better every day.

Except they don’t.  They really don’t.  Five hundred million straws are used every day in the USA, and we are on track to having more plastic in our ocean than wildlife in just a few decades.  There is a pile of garbage in the Pacific that is the size of Texas.  Let that sink in – the size of Texas, just floating there.  It even has its own Wikipedia page.  And you must have all seen that video of the poor turtle with the straw up his nose.

Luckily, 2018 seems to be the year of change; of challenging the status quo, and there is a movement that is building through campaigns such as Friends of the Earth and the #Stopsucking hashtag.

Here in Dubai, it took someone like Ian Ohan at Freedom Pizza to make the first move.  In hindsight, of course, it was Ian.  I don’t think anyone else could have done it.  Ian and Freedom Pizza are at the forefront of standing up for principles, for doing what’s morally right, often over what’s commercially right.  It’s why Freedom Pizza has such a tremendous amount of goodwill currency within the market.  They announced that they would stop adding single-use straws and plastic cutlery to their deliveries, and just like that, the blue touch paper was lit.

Image credit - @nowastewahine
Image credit – @nowastewahine

Naim Maadad, CEO of Gates Hospitality instructed his portfolio of restaurants to also support this movement.  Restaurants such as Bistro Des Arts, Folly by Nick and Scott, Publique, Reform, The Black Lion, Ultra Brasserie and Via Veneto all signed up to go strawless, and suddenly this movement is starting to gain some traction.   When a prominent restaurant group like Gates Hospitality commit to something like this, it gives reassurance to others that their world will not end if they don’t supply single-use plastic straws with their drinks.

Not to be outdone, Emma Banks from Jumeirah Restaurant Group has also announced that her entire restaurant group will ban all plastics in their restaurants, not stopping just at straws, but also stirrers, swizzle sticks and more.  That is huge.  Jumeirah Restaurant Group has some pretty high-profile stakeholders, and the exposure alone from this announcement is hugely significant.  Plus, JRG serves a huge number of international tourists, meaning this message is for the world, not just our city.

Please join me in commending these restaurants and the commitment their leaders have made towards helping make the planet a better place for every living thing, including poor turtles.  Let’s thank them for improving our neck mobility and for potentially making movie theatres quieter.

You, too, can support this initiative by refusing your straw and telling the restaurant you are not eight years old anymore and you can drink from a big cup with no handles.  When you order delivery or drive through, tell the restaurant you don’t want a straw, if it is plastic.  Shoot the paper end at them, if they aren’t listening.  No, don’t do that.  Just let them know your point of view and demand change.  Consumers drive change through their actions and what’s great about this, is there are many, many solutions already available in the market.  Recycled paper straws, biodegradable straws, and plant-based straws have all been developed – we just need to ask for them.

I also wanted to try come up with some workable and sensible solutions to living without straws that we could apply to our daily lives.  I couldn’t think of any so here are some ridiculous and unfeasible ones instead.

  1. Restaurants hire extra staff with tiny ladles to pour beverages into customers mouths at regular intervals throughout their meal.
  1. You can buy your own reusable straw and keep it in your handbag or suit pocket. They can be retractable and customised, or in true Dubai style, made from precious metals and “strajazzled.” Totally made up that word.
  1. Dubai invests in a massive Dabbawalla style delivery service, that moves hundreds of thousands of personal straws around Dubai every day, with unerring accuracy.

Jokes aside, please share this article to increase awareness of this important issue and start demanding change from the restaurants you dine in.  You are the difference. You are the change agents.  We are the world.  We are the children.

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