The Restaurant biz is a notoriously wasteful industry that continues to grow. Not only food waste, but plastic waste as well. In fact, Ocean researchers estimate that some 10 million to 20 million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year, a large chunk of which comes from straws, plates, forks and cups that consumers carelessly throw away, or can't recycle. WHAT?! That's a crazy big number in the name of convenience. If we are going to keep growing these industries, we are going to have to start thinking about what the impact of these every day, seemingly small, choices really are. Pollution and harm to sea life are just a couple of the negative impacts of plastic on our planet. But there is hope! Just as our individual choices matter, the choices of business can make an even bigger positive impact on this dilemma.
San Diego brewery and restaurant, Bagby Beer Company, is precisely the type of company we are talking about. They have taken it upon themselves to make it easier for their customers by taking plastic out of the equation all together. They estimate that they've disposed of at least 200,000 plastic straws per year and they are done with that life. Bagby is so cool that they are on and how they are making it a part of their brand culture.
Did you know that more than 500 million disposable plastic straws are used in the United States every day?
It’s no secret that single-use plastics are a detriment to our environment, and study after study shows that marine life – particularly sea turtles and sea birds – are extremely vulnerable to the constant and perpetual discarding of plastic (especially straws) into their environment. It is estimated that over half of all sea turtles and sea birds have already consumed plastic or other debris, and that this number could swell to over 90% in the coming years. This is life threatening for them – and for what? Considering their proximity to the ocean, their personal and company values, and the scale of their business, they made the decision to replace all of the plastic straws with paper ones. Bagby Beer feels that the benefit to the environment, to the community, and to themselves will far outweigh the initial financial impact. The paper straws they have implemented are FDA approved, are completely biodegradable and compostable, are chlorine and chemical-free, and are made in the USA. They are willing to make this commitment, even though it will be more expensive at first, because it is their hope that others will follow suit, and that together there can be a significant reduction to the impact on the environment and the wildlife within it. So rad!
They’ve even asked their employees to pitch in on the efforts by not automatically providing straws with water or soft drinks, but only when customers request them. Employees are required to bring a reusable covered drink cup to work, instead of using the disposable to-go cups. They are challenging each other to be mindful, and educating one another about what is recycling, and what isn’t. They are also saving ice water to water the plants around their restaurant. They encourage their employees to be a part of the process and welcome suggestions for anything they think will help.
“With great opportunity comes great responsibility. We have a presence in Oceanside and in the craft beer community – we intend to use our position and lead the way in our industry, using Bagby Beer Company as an example that it is possible to do the responsible thing, even if it costs more initially. It feels good to do the right thing!” - Dande Bagby
Pretty cool, right? We are stoked that Bagby Beer is leading the way for breweries and restaurants to go plastic free. The more other restaurants and breweries join the movement, it’s possible the costs will decline, and the easier it will be for everyone to reduce single use plastics in the restaurant industry.
What can you do to help reduce restaurant plastic waste?
When you're eating out, bring your own glass straw to cut down on plastic straws. It's a great conversation starter! Or simply skip the straw.
If you work at a restaurant or bar, share this post and see what your place of work can do to eliminate plastic waste. You'd be surprised what a simple suggestion can do.
Bring your own food container with you, restaurants don't mind and you don't have to waste food or a plastic box.
If you have to use plastic, check out this video by Good. Recycling starts in the store, so know which plastics are easiest to recycle later.
Monica Schrock is a passionate non-toxic lifer and has her own non-toxic, vegan and cruelty-free skin care company, Bare Bones Body Care. You will most likely catch her drinking coffee, playing basketball, reading comics or laughing uncontrollably.