straw
Straw in glass of soda. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY ADAM ANIK/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCL

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

It has been about two months since Clean Water Action began inviting Montclair-area restaurants to take part in a project to reduce plastic straw use. And some of those businesses have seen steep drops in the number of straws given out to customers, according to project coordinator Maura Toomey.

The participating eateries now include Pig and Prince, Plum on Park, Toast, Local Coffee, Vital, Villalobos and Tinga.

On Monday, Toomey said that Pig and Prince was using only about a tenth of the straws it typically uses on a monthly basis: 650 straws, down from the usual 6,800. She also said that Vital had gone from using 419 straws a month to 169.

The Straws By Request program is part of a larger project by Clean Water Action called Rethink Disposables. “Rethink Disposables is about preventing waste but it is also about helping local businesses thrive by becoming more sustainable and attracting environmentally-conscious customers,” Toomey said on Monday. She said that she was in the process of talking with a local hair salon about taking steps such as using reusable gloves for stylists, and using reusable cups and utensils for serving refreshments for clients. The project’s goal is to encourage businesses and consumers to cut down on their use of disposable packaging and plastics, including single-use utensils and straws.

Bluestone Coffee began using paper straws and wooden stirrers earlier this winter. Other coffee shops in Montclair invite customers to bring their own reusable travel mugs, which will sometimes get them a discount on their coffee.

The Plastic Pollution Coalition says on its website that Americans use about 500 million straws every year.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 80 percent of marine debris starts out as land-based trash.

“Plastic trash and particles are now found in most marine and terrestrial habitats, including the deep sea, Great Lakes, coral reefs, beaches, rivers, and estuaries,” the EPA states on its website concerning plastic trash.

According to the Ocean Conservancy’s 2017 report on the International Coastal Cleanup, plastic straws and stirrers were the seventh most frequent trash item recovered during cleanups for that year. Cigarette butts were the most frequent, immediately followed by plastic beverage bottles and plastic bottle caps.