Final Straw | The Local Bans Most Beverage-Transferring Tubes

frozen margarita with straw at q bar beijing

By Jim Boyce | I just read that The Local will stop using straws for most drinks. Why? Because straws end up in the garbage and, in turn, as a threat to wildlife. Whole straws, or bits of them, find their way to rivers, lakes and oceans where Tammy the Turtle thinks they are food and gobbles them up. Eventually they accumulate in Tammy’s tummy until she thinks she is full when she’s not, doesn’t get enough nutrition and sheds her mortal coil. Same goes for goes Sammy the Seal and Wanda the Whale.

I’m all for saving these critters. But the problem is less about the straw as technology and more about the material from which it is made. In the United States, for example, some 500 million straws are used per day and the vast majority are the single-use plastic variety. Anyway, as I fight insomnia on a Tuesday night, a few deep thoughts about straws in bars.

Bars use a lot of ’em

Take those cocktail joints where the bartenders are diligent, or want to appear so, and do a quick taste test, with a straw, for every cocktail ordered. Let’s say a bar averages a modest 50 straw-garnished drinks per night—that adds up to 100 straws per day more than 35,000 per year. Imagine how many the average McDonald’s or KFC goes through?

But we need ’em!

I’ve been on a frozen margarita kick of late and require a straw to fully enjoy the icy vitamin C- and tequila-laced goodness of this beverage. The same holds true for milkshakes and numerous other libations.

But we don’t need plastic!

What we need is something biodegradable. Like the paper straw, patented in the United States by Marvin C. Stone in 1888 to make drinking Mint Juleps more enjoyable. (Stone, of course, was not the first to use a straw: credit goes back at least to the Sumerians.) There are plenty of paper straw options on Taobao and other sites.

And we don’t need metal!

As opposed to single-use plastic and paper straws, there are reusable ones made of stainless steel. I hate them. In an icy drink, they get too cold. And habitual straw-chewers run the risk of forgetting the metal their mouth, chomping down and chipping a tooth. Plus, I’m wary about how clean the inside surface of a metal—or reusable bamboo or glass—straw will be after a few dozen uses. These are all fine for home use but in a bar, I’d prefer that the plastic be replaced by paper.

And for places like The Local, paper straws would fit with other products, such as the to-go coffee cups that use partially recycled paper:

The Local to-go beverages

And with that, time to make another attempt at sleeping…

Check out sibling blogs Grape Wall of China and World Baijiu Day.

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Get regular Beijing updates via my Instagram and Twitter feeds. Also see my sibling sites Grape Wall of China, World Baijiu Day and World Marselan Day. Help cover the hosting and other costs of these sites with a WeChat, AliPay or PayPal donation.

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