The #StrawsSuck movement is gaining momentum the world over. The campaign urges individuals and businesses to stop using plastic straws – and many South African food franchises are opting in at a rapid pace.
While any effort toward the eradication of single-use plastic is sure to make a positive impact on the environment, here are five more steps businesses can take to ensure that their commitment to the end of single-use plastic extends the social media trend.
1. Move toward reusable cups
According to the Two Oceans Aquarium, more than 100-billion single-use cups are disposed of around the world each year. They say that not only do the plastic lids of these cups add to the problem, but "paper" cups are often lined with plastic too.
It seems a bit counterproductive to stop distributing straws and continue with single-use cups, doesn't it? Opt for reusable cups and offer a discounted rate to patrons who bring their own mugs.
2. Use biodegradable packaging
Almost half a trillion items of food packaging are disposed of each year – billions of which are made of styrofoam and are therefore unrecyclable.
The best solution to this is to encourage patrons to sit down and have a meal with reusable utensils – after all, "bums on seats" implies that your food is amazing. If your clientele really insists on takeaways, make sure that your packaging affects the environment as little as possible.
A host of food packaging manufacturers are beginning to develop ecofriendly alternatives that are made out of biodegradable materials such as bagasse, a by-product of sugarcane.
3. Offer biodegradable bags
Around 1-million plastic bags are used in the world every minute. In South Africa alone, we use around 8-billion bags on an annual basis. Considering that the average plastic bag is used for just 30 minutes and that plastic can take up to 500 years to break down, the use of plastic bags is simply unjustifiable.
But what should be used instead?
In response to the country's massive pollution problem, an Indonesian company has developed a shopping bag that looks and feels like plastic, but is made out of a root vegetable called yaca (and dissolves completely in water).
4) Stop selling plastic bottled drinks
Soft drink companies like Coca-Cola produce an estimated 100-billion throwaway plastic bottles every year – and billions of these will end up on beaches, in landfills and in the sea.
Stop the demand for plastic bottled drinks by only stocking beverages sold in glass bottles, which can be returned for a deposit on further purchases. Drive the demand for environmentally sustainable alternatives.
5) Don't distribute plastic cutlery
Quite frankly, any meal that requires a knife and fork simply should not be served in a takeaway container. These utensils are just as bad as plastic straws – and should be banned altogether.