By Anna Correa
Lessing’s Hospitality Group will now offer 100 percent compostable straws and biodegradable beverage stirrers in over two dozen restaurants and catering halls all over Long Island.
The organization takes one step forward in the rising consciousness against plastic straw use nationally. As a result, more than 30 restaurants across Suffolk county have pledged to stop using the product.
Americans use 500 million single-use straws a day that can end up in landfills and oceans, taking up to 500 years to decompose. Marine life and seabirds are threatened by biodegrading toxic microplastics found in plastics like straws.
Patrons of Suffolk County’s Lessing’s restaurants will be given the option to use biodegradable straws. The compostable straws made of renewable resources like cornstarch and sugarcane are manufactured by Karat Premium Plastic Paper and Disposable Foodservice Products.
“Every drink you see on the table, all these large drinks, and even water glasses, used to all come with straws,” Jacqueline Hartman, Assistant Manager at Southside Bar & Restaurant in Bay Shore, said. “They would be going into the landfill or going into our beaches into our water.”
At the Southside Bar & Restaurant in Bay Shore and the Post Office Cafe in Babylon, most drinks are not accompanied by a straw in the cup. Instead, by request, straws are given to customers, with an explanation of the “Skip the Straw” campaign and a card that states Lessing’s no longer uses plastic straws and stirrers.
“In Nassau County, restaurants are using paper straws, but they disintegrate in drinks,” James Beckman, the bartender at Southside Bar & Restaurant in Bay Shore, said.
Lessing’s biodegradable straws are thicker than plastic straws but they tend to warp in hot drinks and lose their straight shape, but still maintain the same thickness.
A customer at the Post Office Cafe in Babylon, Christine Kaplan, and her friends, while discussing local news about how straws were impacting the environment, said that since people were becoming conscious of the usage of straws in their everyday lives, they’re simply not asking for them anymore. Kaplan was the only one in her group to order a straw and was playfully shamed by her friends.
“If they did away with straws, I would be supportive about it, because I support the environment,” Debby Poe, a customer at the Southside Bar & Restaurant in Bay Shore, said.
Straws are a good starting place to reduce single-use plastic usage, but the larger issue at hand also includes all types of single-use plastics and the disposal of them, said Katherine Aubrecht, Director of Sustainability Studies in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.
“Some biodegradable plastics will degrade fully in the presence of water and air; others will degrade more quickly in the presence of microorganisms,” Aubrecht said. “Better composting infrastructure could allow people to discard biodegradable plastics (and food waste) to an appropriate setting [enabling] full biodegradation.”
Lessing’s has replaced their plastic bags with paper bags, becoming entirely plastic free. As of this week, they have started offering a new cocktail made with “Naked Turtle Rum,” a white rum whose sale proceeds, go to saving sea turtles. Until now, 509,454 sea turtles have been saved by the liquor company, in partnership with the Sea Turtle Conservancy.
On Sept. 29, Lessing’s and the Town of Babylon will be hosting a beach clean-up with “Save the Beaches,” a Babylon based non-profit, at Gilgo beach from 9 p.m. to 12 p.m.
“Everybody wants to help environmentally,” Hartman said. “If you make them aware of it and you educate people, they’re definitely on board.”