Straw Wars: Campaign to ban plastic straws in restaurants and bars launches
Debra Black
 
The Toronto Star
 
They’re fun, they’re colourful. But straws are bad for the environment.
 
British environmentalist David de Rothschild — who built and sailed a 60-foot catamaran made out of 12,500 empty plastic bottles across the Pacific in 2010 — has launched a new campaign to encourage restaurant owners to stop using straws.
 
Straw Wars, as it’s known, has been launched in London’s Soho district. “The idea is simple — either get rid of straws completely or provide a straw only when requested by a customer,” advises his website.
 
So far, 35 bars and restaurants in Soho have signed on. But the 33-year-old de Rothschild, who is indeed related to the famous European banking dynasty, has larger plans. He hopes to make the campaign international in the next couple of months.
 
And he encourages restaurants and bars around the world to sign up online and take the pledge to stop using plastic straws.
 
“The premise is to get restaurants to stop using straws,” he said in an interview with the Star. “It’s really simple. Straws just suck so let’s get rid of them.”
 
According to the campaign’s website one million seabirds, 100,000 marine mammals and turtles die every year when they entangle themselves in or ingest plastic pollution.
 
“Billions of straws are discarded every year, filtering into landfill and littering the oceans,” the website says.
 
The effect is devastating, de Rothschild argues, because the plastic isn’t biodegradable and lasts indefinitely.
 
The campaign “was a natural progression of ideas” that flowed out of the Plastiki project, the plastic bottle catamaran effort, he said.
 
“There was a lot of conversation about dumb plastics we use and we figured why not create a website to get businesses to eliminate straws,” said de Rothschild.
 
De Rothschild believes there has been a sea change towards disposable plastics, pointing to the fact that Miami Beach has recently banned the use of plastic straws on the beach to cut down on litter.
 
The environmentalist calls his campaign a “simple call to action.”
 
“You can become part of the solution just by taking straws out of your establishment,” he advises restaurant and bar owners everywhere.
 
“It’s a simple arc. It saves money for bar owners and its easier for staff that don’t have to clean them up.”
 
Canadian reaction to the campaign by fellow environmentalists has been enthusiastic.
 
“He’s a smart guy who understands that sometimes to understand the significance of complicated issues you have to boil things down to a potent icon,” said Rick Smith, executive director of Canada’s Environmental Defence.
 
“The Plastiki was all about that — in a very dramatic and tongue in cheek way to convey the significance of plastic pollution in the ocean. This latest gambit of his is very smart and will interest a lot of people.”
 
“He’s chosen an icon of the everyday that people understand and use and come into contact everyday,” said Smith, suggesting there is a similarity between de Rothschild’s straw wars campaign and the successful push here to get rid of plastic bags — a campaign now under threat by Mayor Rob Ford.
 
“I think the best kind of campaigns is centred around seemingly small things, but yet they’re not small. They’re descriptive of a larger problem and a larger issue.”