It’s become a global, annual movement, Straw Free September. A month where we are encouraged to refuse the straw. The
disposable, cheap plastic items are the poster kids of the Plastic Free movement, and it is hoped by many that while
reconsidering our relationship with straws, we will take a look at how we can ditch other unnecessary single use objects
in our lives – reducing pressure on our landfills, preventing rubbish from ending up in the world’s oceans and creating
a society where disposable isn’t desirable.
Of course, for some, physical needs or disabilities make straw-less-ness inconvenient, perhaps impossible. For others,
the less restrictive desire to avoid a smoothie moustache means straws still need to exist, because we all agree that
smoothies are here to stay. So how to navigate Straw life, in September and beyond.
Number one: Refuse the straw, and this needs to be done in a memorable way: popping a straw in a drink has become a
habit for staff, part of first day training, so say “No Straw thanks”, but then perhaps add a bit, “we’re trying to
reduce single use”, or “we don’t want to add to landfill when we have perfectly good holes in our faces to drink
through”. Experiment. Be kind.
Number 2: Bring your own! Reusable straws are becoming a thing. A wonderful thing. Glass (Cinderella style and tougher
than you’d think), stainless steel (the Mad Max choice), bamboo (naturally antibacterial) and even silicon, that have
bendy properties which make them ideal for those who have disabilities. Many cafes love it when you choose to reuse – it
saves them money and creates a feeling of working together to clean things up in an industry which is inherently high in
single use waste. Some of our largest franchise, guys like Tank Juice, actively encourage us to use or own straws, to
help them make the change that customer expectations won’t yet allow them to do.
Number 3: Choose a café that serves paper straws on demand. Until we are weaned off single-use items, finding the lesser
evil can be the way to go. Paper straws break down harmlessly in days if they find their way into our ocean or waterways
(because the sea is downhill from everywhere) and can be easily popped into a home compost or worm farm (unlike plant
based PLA eco straws that require commercial facilities to break down effectively). The UYOC café guide, a new New
Zealand guide to responsible cafes, has a filter which allows you to search for businesses who no longer stock plastic
straws at all.
The UYOC guide home page also has a download cloud of top tips for those in the hospitality industry on ways to
encourage customers to take personal responsibility for their habits, be it straws or single use coffee cups, water
bottles or take our containers. And for us smoothie and juice suckers, we can own this, and create a situation where
common sense prevails over convenience. New Zealand is more capable than most to make a nation wide change in our
habits. We’re good at finding ways around things, and we’re never afraid to take a different path. And we love to Keep
New Zealand Beautiful.
UYOC.CO.NZ is not-for-profit business and café/coffee lover community. They are finalists in 2018 Keep New Zealand
Beautiful awards. UYOC an online guide to cafes who love it when we UYOC (use your own cup) for take outs, if we don’t
have time to stay. You can also use UYOC to search for cafes who:
• Sell reusable cups
• Will discount your take out if you ‘use your own cup’ instead of a disposable
• Will refill your water flask or bottle, whether you are a customer or not (cutting down on plastic waste)
• Have free wifi
• Serve vegan options (other than just chips!)
• Serve GF options
• Serve organic food
• Welcome breastfeeding mothers
• Give away free coffee grounds waste for your garden or face mask!
• Do not serve plastic straws
• Welcome pets
• Pour ethically sourced coffee
• Responsibly process their food waste (reducing landfill emissions)
• Will deliver food to your accommodation
• Have a mug library or ‘cup swap’ with other cafes