Straw poll: Dispose of single-use plastics, urges restaurant lobby

Plastic straws among items to be banned in EU under proposed legislation from EC

The Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) has called on its 2,500 members to implement a ban on single-use plastic straws – and suggested all in the hospitality sector should move to end use of disposable plastics in their outlets.

The move coincides with indications this week that plastic straws will be among items to be banned in the EU under proposed legislation about to be published by the European Commission.

The RAI “encourages all businesses to implement a ban of plastic straws within their premises”, it said on Friday – its members include owners and operators of restaurants, gastropubs and hotel restaurants.

“A straw which is only used on average for 20 minutes can take more than 200 years to break down into smaller pieces, and often does not fully disintegrate,” it pointed out.


It cited actions being taken by some companies which are removing single-use plastic straws from hotels, food and drink outlets and train carriages in advance of legislation, along with UK government moves to ban plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds.

‘Lead the charge’

“The RAI encourages its members to do the same and lead the charge in reducing the instance of non-biodegradable waste in our industry,” it added.

The association echoed the concerns of Minister for Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten, who had highlighted a "global and national plastics crisis" with "an incredible 80 per cent" of plastic being disposed of after single use.

Given the scale and the urgency of the plastic pollution crisis, we now look forward to the publication and implementation of this proposal and a sea free of plastic pollution

Mr Naughten has committed to eliminating single-use plastic items in Ireland, and is considering the application of levies where they are being used. The Green Party’s 2017 Waste Reduction Bill, which includes a proposed ban on single-use plastic and the introduction of a deposit and return scheme (DRS) for plastic drinks containers, is due back before the Dáil later this month.

RAI president Liam Edwards said: "By removing plastic straws from our restaurants, I believe we can make a difference in the use of unnecessary plastic and make the Irish restaurant and hospitality industry more sustainable and environmentally friendly."

The RAI said it had various foodservice and catering equipment partners who stock paper and biodegradable alternatives to plastic straws.

The European Commission is preparing to ban straws, cutlery, cotton buds, plates and balloon sticks, according to a leaked draft document published by Politico.

Legislation to be presented before the summer includes plans to make producers pay for the cost of cleaning up and recycling of items commonly found on beaches and in oceans. These include food packaging, disposable bottles and cups, plastic bags and cigarette butts.

“To focus efforts where they are most needed, this Directive aims to address only the most found single-use plastics products, which are estimated to represent around 86 per cent of the single-use plastics found in counts on beaches in the [European] Union,” EU officials said in the memo.

The commission also wants EU countries to collect 90 per cent of all disposable plastic bottles placed on the market each year by 2025 – which is likely to increase pressure on member states to introduce a DRS where one does not exist.

NGOs have largely welcomed the unprecedented proposals. “The commission has understood the problem, and is introducing measures which we fully support,” said Ariadna Rodrigo of the Rethink Plastic Alliance.

“Given the scale and the urgency of the plastic pollution crisis, we now look forward to the publication and implementation of this proposal and a sea free of plastic pollution.”

Meanwhile, Trinity College Dublin has announced it is to eliminate single-use plastics. "Trinity has agreed to replace or eliminate disposable plastics, and will be phasing out disposable plastic containers and utensils over the next two years," it said in a email to staff and students. It follows a year-long campaign by TCD Plastic Solutions Group.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times