Anti-straw movement picks up

Anti-straw movement picks up

Epic is anti-strawThis is a great article showing the anti-straw movement and how it has been catching on.  Bob Minning, former mayor of Treasure Island, is spear-heading our EPIC program.  We are on the move to get our beaches clean.

For more info on our EPIC program – CLICK HERE.

anti-straw movement encourages beach clean ups

Anti-straw movement picks up steam on beaches

Written by: Tom Germond, Tampa Bay Newspapers – click here for original copy of article

Efforts to persuade restaurants and bars to discontinue the use of plastic straws are having a rippling effect in beach communities as well as some inland in Pinellas County.

Former Treasure Island Mayor Bob Minning is spearheading efforts for the Treasure Island and Madeira Beach Chamber of Commerce through its Environmental Preservation Initiative for Our Communities.

Meanwhile, the Go Strawless campaign, launched by local businessman Bob Griffin, continues to expand, with about 140 restaurants from Clearwater Beach to Pass-A-Grille agreeing to participate. Fourteen restaurants, cafes and bars in Belleair Bluffs also are participating, he said. Griffin, who publishes several newsletters, said that businesses participating in the campaign are not getting rid of all their straws. “It does mean that they do not give out straws unless one is requested. In places like Panera Bread, where people get their own straws, they will simply promote the voluntary non-use of plastic straws. Many places are asking their suppliers to provide paper straws as alternatives,” Griffin said.

Minning said his chamber was probably the first group to get a strawless initiative started. “The city of Treasure Island is where it all started,” Minning said. About four or five years ago, some residents complained about straws on the beaches and came before the City Commission and asked for an ordinance to be drafted banning straws. “Long story short, both the residents and the commission agreed; why don’t we try a voluntary basis for six months to see how it turns out,” Minning said.

The primary targets on the beach were Caddy’s on the Beach, the Bilmar, Sloppy Joes and the Beach Bar. “I’m happy to say all of them have complied,” he said. They have either gone to paper straws or biodegradable straws, and he has heard no more complaints from the residents. “When we do our beach cleanups the number of straws we find are way, way down,” Minning said.

EPIC Program

Subsequently, the Treasure Island and Madeira Beach Chamber of Commerce started its EPIC program.

For businesses to be certified with the EPIC program, they must not use Styrofoam products. Plastic straws, stirs, lids, bags, utensils are distributed only upon request, and the businesses must engage in proper recycling practices. Renewal of certificates for participating businesses is annual. “We’ve had good success on the voluntary approach to this,” Minning said.

The chamber’s focus has been on businesses that border the beach. Now the chamber is turning its attention to businesses off the beach. Through the EPIC program, the chamber is compiling a list of substitute products for items, such as plastic utensils and Styrofoam coffee cups, and also is gathering information on suppliers and costs involved. “Our intent is to go to all the establishments, provide them with a list, show what the costs are and ask them to participate,” Minning said.

The success with the first four businesses on the beach was surprisingly easy, Minning said. “They recognize the value of being good citizens, not having their name dragged out as a source of the pollution,” he said. Those are Caddy’s on the Beach, Sloppy Joe’s, the Bilmar Beach Café and the BRGR Kitchen & Bar at the Treasure Island Resort.

Griffin’s Go Strawless Campaign is heading south, with restaurants joining the program as far south as Pass-A-Grille. He said he hopes to have 200 restaurants involved in his program before he is done, which should be soon he said. His campaign in Indian Rocks Beach resulted in 96 percent of all restaurants and bars agreeing to participate.

The Florida Extension Service has provided Griffin with thousands of small business cards that people can carry with them and leave at businesses when they see straws being used. The cards are free and can be picked up at Belleair Beach and Belleair Bluffs city halls. A summer strawless program is underway in Clearwater. Griffin said his CWB newsletter is helping the city increase its participation by focusing on the beach. About 50 restaurants and other entities participate on Clearwater Beach.

Griffin said there are many reasons why restaurants still need to carry straws, such as for drinks for children and slushy concoctions. “I have hundreds of stories about how restaurants are responding to this,’’ Griffin said. “Most like the idea and are going with it. They already knew about it from the media. Many servers I have met are telling me that their customers argue with them. It takes time to educate the public as well.”

Local Trends

The local trend is a part of a national and international pattern to reduce use of an estimated 500 million plastic straws and millions more plastic bags that are used and discarded daily, Clearwater officials say. Advocates for strawless initiatives, such as the Strawless Ocean program, say that most plastic straws are too lightweight to make it through mechanical recycling sorters. Straws end up in the ocean because they are left on beaches or blown out of trash cans and boats.

Minning said the only issue that he thinks would discourage businesses from participating would be the higher costs of substitute products. “But we think it’s investment as opposed to a cost, and that’s the way we approach it,” Minning said. “You are far better off having your website say you are a green establishment – however you want to use that phrase – then having it say you are part of program.”

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