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IU and local businesses make the switch from plastic straws

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Rainbow Bakery uses paper straws for their drinks. Rainbow Bakery is located at 201 S. Rogers St. Alex Deryn Buy Photos

Straws often end up in landfills or waterways and can hurt sea life. IU and local businesses are taking note and making changes. 

Kelly Eskew, faculty co-chair of the Resource Use and Recycling working group, said Director of IU Dining Rahul Shrivastav told her they are moving toward paper straws in all dining facilities. 

Americans use 500 million straws every day, according to the National Park Service. Eskew has her opinions on why there has been a recent trend to stop using plastic straws and reduce plastic use in general. 

“I think that’s something that really draws a lot of attention,” Eskew said. “Then you can see the horrible images of how these straws end up in the waste as opposed to recycling. Plastic waste, as we know, ends up in our oceans.” 

A big corporation many people are waiting for to make a switch is Starbucks. Right now, the Starbucks on Indiana Avenue still has plastic straws but offers strawless lids upon request. 

The company will eliminate single-use plastic straws from its stores by 2020, according to a press release from Starbucks.

Select stores are already piloting paper straws. The company issued a statement July 13 that clarified they will still offer plastic straws to customers who need or request them. 

Along with IU Dining and Starbucks, local restaurants are working on the plastic problem.

The Pourhouse Cafe on Kirkwood Avenue uses plastic straws, but manager David Phillips said he is working with a barista to assess the types of waste the business is making. 

“One of my baristas studies sustainability, so her and I have been working pretty closely to figure out how we can make the cafe more sustainable,” Phillips said. 

Phillips said he feels straws are an issue, but so is other plastic waste. 

He said one problem is their non-dairy milk containers cannot be recycled because of the wax that coats the containers.

“We are trying to look at all of our products, straws included,” he said. “What’s a more sustainable option that is something we can still afford?”

The cafe is looking to offer paper straws or encourage customers not to use straws, but Phillips is also concerned about accommodating customers who need the plastics straws because of a disability. 

People with disabilities that effect their motor skills or weaken muscles or bones often cannot bring the drink up to their mouths easily, so a straw helps them.

A local restaurant that has already made the switch to paper straws is Lennie’s. 

The restaurant made the change a couple months ago, manager Moll Stover said. 

She said Lennie’s is a certified green restaurant. This means they met the requirements of the Green Restaurant Association, an international organization. The requirements include recycling, composting, educating staff and not using foam. 

Stover said the switch to paper straws was an easy change to be more environmentally conscious. The restaurant limits its waste by composting everything, including paper straws.

“We are continually taking steps to be more green,” Stover said. 

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