More Outer Banks restaurants are taking a pass on straws

By on July 4, 2018

The Eco cup’s opening eliminates the need for a straw.

By Daniel Lewis

President, Outer Banks Restaurant Association

It’s been years now since news broke about that massive expanse of plastic litter the size of Texas swirling around in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

But the outrage at such a preventable man-made calamity has seemed almost non-existent; as long as the swarm of polypropylene and Styrofoam didn’t start washing up on beaches in our backyards.

In fact, it wasn’t until one of our local wildlife icons became an unwilling video star on social media did the outrage begin, spawning some dramatic changes in our local restaurants.

About two years ago, researchers in Costa Rica released a horrifying video of the removal of a plastic straw from the nostril of a sea turtle. The agonizing scene made the dangers of our single-use plastic consumer habits vividly real.

For some it was, literally, the last straw.

Tina Mackenzie from the Outer Banks Brewing Station brought up the straw topic at one of the monthly meetings of the Outer Banks Restaurant Association in the Fall of 2017.

And while most restaurant members certainly had their share of straw litter stories, there were few establishments that had begun making changes to rectify the problem. I mean, everybody uses straws, right?

Well, maybe only for the past several decades as more food is being consumed away from home or “on the go.”

Even sit-down restaurants these days must make accommodations for takeout orders, and modern technology has made a plethora of petroleum-based plastics available for every purpose.

With that has come the glut of waste that will be with us for centuries.

And plastic straws littering the ground have become so commonplace as to blend in with the roadside groundscape as much as cigarette butts and bottle tops.

But the tide is changing.

Remember paper straws? They are making a comeback, and with modern technology are far sturdier and waterproof than the ones that were common until the 1960s.

Globally, about 300 million tons of plastic are produced per year, with only about 14 percent being recycled. That’s why we are seeing major attention and proposed changes to use of single-use disposable plastics.

The European Union has proposed legislation banning 10 common plastic items such as straws and cutlery by 2030.

In India, the problem has gotten so bad that an immediate ban on all plastic disposable materials has been put in place in the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

Here on the East Coast, Monmouth Beach, N.J. has just voted unanimously to ban single-use plastic bags, straws, and food containers, as well as take-out Styrofoam boxes, possibly setting a standard for handling the situation on a very local level.

Ironically, here in North Carolina, the General Assembly voted this past year to recall a ban on plastic shopping bags on the Outer Banks that had been in place since 2009.

But it appears evident that the people’s concern about plastic waste will be heard not only via the voting booth but also at local eateries.

Many restaurants in the Outer Banks have already stopped offering straws, or are offering them only on request.

Others have switched to “green” alternatives such as paper straws or corn-based biodegradable plastic straws. The cost of these alternatives is much higher than petroleum-based plastics, so the industry has further incentive to reduce the amount used.

Leading the charge, the Outer Banks Brewing Station became the first certified Ocean Friendly Establishment by Wilmington, NC-based Plastic Ocean Project last year.

The list has grown to two dozen in just a few months and is growing rapidly. Local clean-up events have also started to focus on plastic litter on our beaches.

So on your next dinner out in the Outer Banks, you’ll likely find table tent signs with headlines like “Straws Suck!” or “Skip The Straw,” but what you may not find (or at least may have to ask for) are straws themselves.

Daniel Lewis is the owner and chef at Coastal Provisions in Southern Shores and president of the Outer Banks Restaurant Association.

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  • Local

    At least we’re still fighting for something…as our stores happily restock plastic bags.

    Wednesday, Jul 4 @ 8:07 pm
  • Luminous

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, to all those restaurants making the right choice here. Plastic straws and utensils are not a top 5 trash item found on our beaches, but they have consistently been a top 20 and close to top 10 beach trash item in my experience as a volunteer beach cleaner.

    I don’t take or use straws at all when offered anymore, but I know some people have a good reason to need or just prefer them. If you always use a straw at home, want a straw to drink on or near the beach or in a restaurant, then please be responsible and carry and use a pocket-sized reusable straw with you rather than take a plastic one. They’re not expensive.

    Thursday, Jul 5 @ 5:54 pm
  • Arthur Pewty

    According to a recent article in “The Daily Mail” 90% of the plastic waste in the oceans comes from just 10 rivers in Africa and Asia. But by all means continue on with your virtue signaling while you try to come up with a solution that will actually accomplish something.

    Friday, Jul 6 @ 12:04 pm
  • Paul

    Wow Arthur!
    …As the saying goes, if you’re not part of the solution you are part of the problem.!


    Saturday, Jul 7 @ 12:40 pm