Very quietly this past July the Cross Sound Ferry stopped providing plastic straws on its ferries.
That fact may not come as much of a surprise. After all, this is the summer of the straw. Or rather the summer of hating the straw. From Starbucks to Spuntino Wine Bar & Italian Tapas and Bohlsen Restaurant Group, it seems like every day some new restaurant, town or company announces they are getting rid of straws.
Roughly 16 miles across Long Island Sound from Orient, inside the New London, Connecticut offices of the Cross Sound Ferry, employees started talking about finding a more environmentally friendly solution to the plastic drinking utensil a year ago.
“It was an initiative promoted by ownership,” says Stanley Mickus, Cross Sound Ferry Director of Marketing & Public Affairs. “In the environmentally conscious times we live in, we wanted to try to make a difference.”
While a plastic straw won’t come with your Cross Sound Deli beverage, the company will provide compostable straws upon request. According to Mickus, when they started talking about plastic straws from an environmental standpoint, employees looked at if they should provide them at all or go strawless and provide them only upon request. At the same time, they researched and identified the many types of straws including ones that are recyclable and others, like the Hoffmaster ones they settled on, that are totally compostable.
“We felt strawless was the more environmentally conscious approach,” Mickus said.
Across Long Island there are at least 31 restaurants and two schools reducing their use of straws by either going completely strawless, providing biodegradable paper or bamboo straws upon request or providing reusable alternatives such as stainless steel, according to the Surfrider Foundation’s Eastern Long Island Chapter. Those businesses and organizations include: Bohlsen Restaurant Group, Provisions, Left Hand Coffee, Left Hand Coffee & Bakery, The Montauk Beach House, Canal Cafe, Long Island Aquarium, Almond, Westlake Fish House, Pierre’s, Pierre’s Market, Dockside Bar & Grill, Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market, Oaklands Restaurant and Marina, Page at 63 Main, The Surf Lodge, Mambo Kitchen, Bell & Anchor, Little Red, Sundays On The Bay, Peconic Cellar Door, Claude’s, Bay Kitchen Bar, Rowdy Hall, Tutto Il Giorno, Southampton Publick House, C’est Cheese, RUMBA Inspired Island Cuisine & Rum Bar, Calissa, Topping Rose House, Good Libations Food Truck, The Purple Elephant, Hampton Bays Middle School, Hampton Bays High School.
The Surfrider Foundation’s Eastern Long Island Chapter is working with the Group for the East End, the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, and Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn who recently introduced “Strawless Suffolk,” to encourage restaurants and organizations to voluntarily switch away from plastic straws.
“In one year, our Chapter has picked up 1651 plastic straws from local coastlines, along with a number of other commonly found items,” says Colleen Henn of the Surfrider Foundation’s Eastern Long Island Chapter. “Plastic does not biodegrade, but photodegrades into smaller pieces called microplastics, that can be ingested by marine life and make its way into our food chain. The good news about plastic straws is that they are an easy item to get rid of, that will benefit the health of our local environment and economy.”
Originally straws were made plants. The plastic version was invented in the 19th century and became widely popular after World War II.
Roughly a month into their strawless initiative, Mickus said the Cross Sound Ferry has heard mostly good things about doing away with straws but they’ll have to wait until the end of the year to see just how much they’ve reduced their plastic straw consumption.