Do you really need a straw?

Weekender

AS OF Word Environment Day, June 5, Port Moresby’s leading hotel is doing away with plastic straws – unless patrons insist on sipping drinks with them.
The move adopted by the Stanley Hotel and Suites was initiated by a social awareness entity, ZeroWaste PNG. And what better time to make that small start than on the day the world pauses to consider the impact of human activity on Mother Earth?
And in Port Moresby, what better place to launch such a move than the city’s biggest and most modern 5-star hotel?
The face behind Zero Waste PNG is Shirley Yip whose passion for the outdoors and the natural environment drove her to making this small start.
For WED, she decided to approach The Stanley and Lamana hotels who were more than happy to support the idea.
Signs placed at the hotel eateries advised patrons: “If you need a straw, please ask and we will provide one. By not using plastic straws we are reducing plastic entering our environment.”
According to the Stanley’s food and beverages director Davide Barbero, the hotel purchasedapproximately16,000 plastic straws and 5,000 plastic sandwich boxes last year alone.
These are plastic items that the hotel can do without – at least the plastic straws, while paper bags could be used in place of plastic boxes.
The hotel’s fine dining waitress, Cecilia Kumalalanene confirmed that on Tuesday, she and her staff stopped automatically providing straws with drinks in cans or glasses.
“No plastics were used yesterday (Tuesday). A few guests were upset but we told them that it was World Environment Day, and we wanted to stop the use of plastic bags,” she said.
Kumalalanene is not only a pretty face serving drinks and meals but is as passionate about the environment as any other concerned citizen would be.
“We can have appropriate glasses for drinks instead of using straws.”
She says bilums should be vigorously promoted in place of plastic shopping bags now and this would encourage the growth of an industry based on non-plastic carry bags.
She says where the use of plastics is unavoidable, there ought to be efficient recycling plants functioning to rid the environment of waste and also create jobs for others.
Her boss Barbero says the no-straws idea proposed by Zero Waste PNG was a novel way to save the environment and businesses like theirs could actually save costs by adopting it.
“Places like this (Stanley Hotel and Suites) can have a voice and start the process.
“There is no drink that requires a straw, not even a smoothie. As the leading hotel, we can give a strong message.”
He says other business could do well in doing what they were doing.
“Your brand perception will not be affected (by less use of plastic items), and will not affect in anyway provision of 5-star quality” he says.
Straws have been confirmed to be one of the top 10 plastic debris found in our oceans.
“By leading the way in the Port Moresby hospitality industry, we hope other Restaurants, Bars and Café’s will act and move towards a more sustainable future for PNG,” Yip says.
“Please feel free to have a look at the ZeroWastePNG Facebook page.”
“The concept basically is for every individual to reduce their waste output.  It starts by simple things like,  saying ‘No thanks’ to a plastic bag and putting it in your bilum instead,  or saying no need for a plastic straw,  because after all,  we only use it for say 20 minutes then throw it away. Then it remains in landfill for up to 200 years. It just doesn’t make sense to make that choice.
“We have been able to get the the Stanley Hotel and the Lamana Hotel to support this cause, kicking it off on World Environment Day, by now “reducing” straw use, by making it optional.”
Yip cites the African nation of Rwanda as an example of what could be achieved if legislation could be passed and implemented well, who have been ‘Plastics free’ for 10 years now.
“To see a developing country implement and carry out such legislation is ground-breaking. The nation is one of 40 around the world that have restricted, banned, or taxed the use of plastic bags. PNG, it can be done.”
Yipwas born and grew up in Rabaul so has a real affiliation with the sea and spent a lot of time outdoors.
She says she has seen firsthand just how out of control, and how much impact plastic has had in various parts of PNG,  especiallythe growing non-biodegradable trash in the most remote areas of PNG.
“When I moved to Port Moresby, it became even more prominent because of the congestion of people in one city.
“What opened my eyes was a TED talk by an American named Lauren Singer who basically was able to fit one year worth of her waste output into one jar.”
“The person that really introduced the idea of ‘Zero Waste’ to the world is Bea Johnson, who is a family of four (two adults, two kids).
“It really opened my eyes to the fact that it is possible to live more sustainably and closer to my values.   Every day, we are making a choice on what we contribute to landfill.  It is also within our power to choose not to contribute to landfill if we don’t want to,” Yip says
She has created the Facebook pageZero Waste Papua New Guinea to create the awareness and to share with others what they can do also.
“Please feel free to go online and have a look.  I hope that by getting more supporters to the page, that I can approach policy makers with this support to make even bigger changes possible.
“What has been most fulfilling is the ability to talk about what choices we have changed with my threechildren, and have found that they are already asking the same questions and making choices of their own, based on theirenvironmental impact.
“Children learn from us;it is our obligation to re-educate them and not make the same mistakes we have made in the past.
“All I am urging everyone is to start; a small change is better than none at all. We all have to start somewhere,” she says.
So the next time you’re at a bar or restaurant, ask yourself: “Do I need a straw?”

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