Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Myanmar, make it the final straw

The first ever winner of the MYANMORE Green Award is Nourish café. Owner Jo Jo Yang will be writing a regular Green Column every month, check out her first entry in this month’s magazine and online.

As part of the 2018 Green Award program, MYANMORE has made a commitment to support environmentally friendly initiatives in the dining and nightlife industry. One of the most popular green ideas at the minute in Yangon is ‘Straws Suck’ which was launched by restaurant and bar group 57-Below in 2017.  

The idea is simple–they have pledged to no longer serve non-reusable plastic straws in any of their restaurants and bars. The campaign is gaining a lot of interest and many other venues are doing likewise. To date the venues in Yangon that have declared themselves ‘Straw-free’ are:

50th Street, Gekko, Locale, Mahlzeit, Nourish, Parami Pizza, Paribawga Café, Rau Ram, Rose Garden Hotel, Savoy Hotel, Sprouts, The Strand Hotel, Union Bar and Grill.

Many of these venues are providing alternative solutions such as reusable or biodegradable straws, but they have all stopped offering their customers single-use plastic straws.

The negative environmental impacts of plastic straws are well-documented—they take a few seconds to produce, are used for just a few minutes, and then thrown away. Every single plastic straw that has ever been produced is still in existence in one way or another in the world today, in fact every single piece of plastic that has ever been made is still in our environment, and will remain so forever.

Nature is incapable of biodegrading plastic such as straws. What happens to waste plastic, especially plastic that ends up in the sea, is that the plastic degrades into microplastics (small plastic pieces less than 5 millimeters long) and releases chemicals that are toxic to wildlife and the environment. Microplastics are easily consumed by marine wildlife, although whole straws are also problematic due to their slender shape and size, they are easily consumed by marine wildlife and seabirds—over 1 million seabirds die each year from ingesting plastic.

A YouTube clip of scientists removing a plastic straw from the nose of a sea turtle went viral in 2015 and to date has over 18 million views. This graphic example of the effects of plastic pollution has inspired a global movement to reduce the amount of plastic consumed, and many countries around the world are looking into ways to ban single-use plastics such as straws.

More than 300 million tons of new plastic is produced every year, with less than 10 percent recycled globally. Straws are one of the top 10 items of rubbish found on beaches around the world, and although they make up a only a small percentage of the eight million tons of plastic waste that ends up in the ocean each year, they are one of the biggest problems. Scientists predict if we carry on using plastic products at the rate we currently are, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

The ‘Straws Suck’ campaign is not just about straws though—it is about creating a mindfulness and awareness of our consumption habits. Kicking the plastic straw is only the beginning, but a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Ditching straws is a great first step to take, because they’re something we all regularly use without thinking, and without any clue that they’re so damaging—and they are such a non-essential part of our life.

When you start to consider the environmental consequences of using straws, you can’t but help to begin to think about other single-use plastics that you regularly receive and use: take-away cartons, plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic cutlery—the list is endless.

Ditching the straw is as simple as saying “no straw please” when you order a drink, (not when ordering a beer obviously). In the same way you might say “no ice please,” it can easily become second nature. If more and more people started refusing straws in their drinks, more bars, restaurants and cafes might consider stopping automatically offering them.

If your favorite bar or restaurant is chucking straws in each and every drink, why not have a word with them, tell them about ‘Straws Suck’ and ask them to join the movement and go straw free. If you are a venue that has gone straw-free, or you know of a venue that has made the pledge, let us know and we can add the name to the list of straw free venues.

How wonderful would it be if 2018 could be the year that Yangon went straw free?

Cliff Lonsdale
Cliff is a writer who lives in Yangon with his wife, daughter, and dogs. He writes a regular blog filled with his rambling thoughts, and general utterings and mutterings at clifflonsdale.com

3 COMMENTS

  1. Hello ! This is a very interesting article and I would like to know where in Yangon I could buy these reusable straws? I would need to buy some for a restaurant in Nyaungshwe where the owner is interested in this kind of products and actions which can help her community. Many thanks for your answer.

    • Palu Myanmar bamboo straws are a great alternative and sell in bars and restaurants across Yangon and Myanmar. Check them out on Facebook!

  2. Hello ! This is a very interesting article and I would like to know where in Yangon I could buy these reusable straws? I would need to buy some for a restaurant in Nyaungshwe where the owner is interested in this kind of products and actions which can help her community. Many thanks for your answer.

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