This week, I have written to the top 20 chain restaurants and bars asking them to join the campaign to ditch drinking straws.

We are all in the habit of using low-cost, consumable plastics which may offer small conveniences at the time, but all add up to have a detrimental impact on our communities and environment.

However things are starting to change. When you consider the reduction in the use of plastic carrier-bags since a fee was introduced in conjunction with awareness raising campaigns, progress is being made in reducing the amount of plastic waste we produce.

Similarly, drinking straws have become ever-present in our bars, pubs and restaurants. It is not unusual to order a drink which comes with one or two straws whether we have asked for them or not. These straws are designed for a single use, lasting for a matter of minutes, yet once thrown away they will litter our planet for centuries.

Globally, over 500 million straws are thrown away every single day. They are very rarely recycled meaning most will be either incinerated or sent to landfill. Unfortunately, many straws also end up in our waterways, seas and oceans and form part of the estimated 5 trillion plastic pieces weighing over 250,000 tons afloat at sea. This results in great harm to sea life, impacting on birds, fish and sea mammals.

There have been many highlighted cases of this including a study last August by Plymouth University which reported that plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish with cod, haddock and mackerel all affected. Many people will also have seen the video of a Sea Turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nostril which has to be removed, causing immense pain for the animal.

An obvious first step is to ask ourselves – do we really notice if a drink comes with or without a straw? Is a straw really necessary? Much in the same way many of us do with plastic bags since the introduction of a small charge.  

So this week, I have written to the top 20 pub, bar and restaurant chains to urge them to adopt a straws on request policy. Listing straws on menus as ‘available on request’ and providing biodegradable straws to those who do need them would help bring about a huge reduction in plastic waste.

All Bar One have taken a lead on this and have already committed to phasing out plastic straws from their bars in an effort to reduce the 4.7 million straws they purchase each year.

You can let your favourite bars, pubs and restaurants know that you’re joining the #GoStrawFree campaign by tweeting your support or writing to their head office. It is crucial that they know there is widespread public support for tackling damaging levels of plastic waste.

It is my hope is that with consumers, businesses and law makers working together on this, we can make a real difference towards tackling the problem of single use plastics.

This article first appeared on the Politics Home website

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