One of Newfoundland’s busiest pubs has stopped the use of plastic straws.
Brenda O’Reilly, owner and operator of O’Reilly’s pub on George Street, has stopped giving out plastic straws with drinks in an effort to make her business more environmentally friendly.
“There’s no need for a straw. They get caught in plumbing and they get caught everywhere,” she said. “They’re just useless garbage really. I’m just trying to do my part.”
When O’Reilly first stopped the use of straws it was hard for her staff and even for some of the customers. When someone asks for a straw and the staff members explain the reason why they no longer have them, most people respond positively.
Many people do not actually use the straws that get placed in every single drink they order. A lot of customers fold the straw down or just lay it on the bar. This was something O’Reilly noticed and realized that the plastic waste was unnecessary.
“I try to lower my carbon footprint and do what I can for the environment in everything I do in business,” she said.
She is also the owner of Yellow Belly Brewery, where she stopped selling bottled water for the same reason.
O’Reilly is in the process of trying to find a plastic straw alternative – something biodegradable that she will give out upon request.
She says the reality is some people just really want a straw, whether it be for avoiding their sensitive teeth or keeping their lipstick on.
O’Reilly’s carbon footprint is something that has continued to be a priority. The pub has a green roof where they grow herbs, tomatoes and cucumber. They are trying to find a happy medium to stop using unnecessary plastics and energy.
The annual George Street Festival in the summertime produces an abundance of plastic waste. O’Reilly says plastic cups are the only thing allowed on the street during the outdoor event, and every bar needs to serve their drinks from them.
O’Reilly says during the festival she makes an effort to serve most drinks in house out of a real glass. Otherwise, she insists that staff try and reuse plastic cups for the same customer.
The science behind the plastic break-down
Two years have passed since a viral video of a turtle having a plastic straw removed from his nostril was posted. The video has almost two million views on YouTube and has created a world-wide campaign to stop the use of plastic straws.
Aryn Sanojca, a marine biology student at Dalhousie University, says there’s nothing she hates more than plastic straws.
“One huge factor that is often overlooked is that plastics don’t break down into non-existent pieces,” she said. “They break up into smaller pieces that find their way into the entire trophic system.”
She says that research is being done that shows coral species are mistaking plastic for food and willingly ingesting it.
“Another factor that is worth considering is the use of resources that go in to creating disposable plastics,” she said. “It is common to dismiss the impact of using disposable plastics that are recyclable because they are recycled, but both the production and recycling of disposable plastics is incredibly resource intensive.”
Missed frequently, plastic recycling is sent to China and surrounding countries for processing via ships, and shipping is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
Slowly but surely, countries around the world are banning the use of plastic straws, and O’Reilly’s Pub is leading the way for Newfoundland and Labrador.