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Suck it up Everyone, We’re Saying Goodbye to Plastic


In an industry as competitive as the pub trade, waste is a huge problem and at Ossett Brewery it is something we have to keep a very close eye on in terms of brewing, food production and the way we operate throughout our whole pub estate. If we didn’t, the beer you drink and the meals you order would have to cost a lot more.

We’re sure this is no surprise to most of our customers, but what does come as a rather pleasant by-product sometimes is when we are able to cut out a wasteful practice that actually has positive consequential benefits.

From this month we have introduced biodegradable straws across our pub estate and removed the use of plastic straws. This might seem a minor thing, but it is an example of how Ossett Brewery has both a commitment to reducing its carbon footprint and also a commitment to cutting out wasteful costs and practices to benefit the customer.

It is believed that plastic straws take around 200 years to decompose, and given how many of them there are across the world, you begin to understand what effect this has on our oceans and landfill sites, recently highlighted by the Blue Planet ll programme. Given that plastic straws are generally only used once and very fleetingly at that, it is a huge waste. And when you factor in the very real scenario that the majority of customers don’t even want a straw in their drinks, then it quickly becomes obvious that here is a waste cost that we can very easily address.

Increasingly, different industries are getting wise to what they can do directly to contribute to a greener environment. Even a decade ago, nobody in the pub trade would have considered the fact that not automatically putting a plastic straw in a drink could have environmental benefits further down the line. Even today in some bars, cocktails can be served with two plastic straws and a plastic stirrer and the simple fact is that most of it is mere decoration and an unnecessary flourish serving no practical purpose. So slowly, a number of pub chains have moved to asking if customers actually want a straw, or at least pubs are not putting them in drinks automatically and waiting for customers to ask for them.

Now Ossett Brewery have adopted that practice but gone one step further and introduced biodegradable straws. These take around six months to decompose – depending on individual landfill site practices – compared to two full centuries for their plastic alternative.

Plastic straws are usually made from polypropylene and polystyrene, which can be recycled but leaves traces of highly toxic chemicals which are harmful to the environment, to animals and to humans, and hence they often aren’t recycled and therefore go to landfill or end up in the oceans causing much damage. For an item that has such a fleeting useful life this is a tragic waste.

Historically, plastic straws have actually been cheaper than biodegradable straws, but of course the commitment to the environment is the important factor and the practice of not dishing them out automatically, and being more responsible about their distribution, should ensure that one cost is offset by the other saving. In the past, bars and restaurants have been able to afford to give straws out without thinking because they were so cheap, now everybody is thinking a different way.

Of course in recent years we have seen a tax added to the use of plastic bags, and there have been some calls for a similar 5p levy on the use of straws in drinks. Except that you can’t really have a ‘straw for life’ like you can a shopping bag and it’s much easier to simply go without a straw in your drink than it is to carry all your shopping home with your two hands. So the situations aren’t really comparable.

Instead, common sense prevails and we find that a practice that doesn’t affect everyone can be managed rationally and becomes another step in the right direction for the environment.   

We can thank David Attenborough’s amazing Blue Planet documentary for a lot of people waking up to the damage that non-recyclable plastic causes in our oceans across the globe, but there are other initiatives that have highlighted the plastic straw issue too.

McDonalds have recently started to reduce their use of plastic straws and in the US an online campaign called ‘Reduce The Straw” has urged more and more bars and restaurants to move to biodegradable straws. This has been backed in the UK by famous fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, who posted a Facebook message on the subject that has been shared over 300,000 times. The #reducethestraw hashtag has become a long-running thread on Twitter with hundreds of businesses and organisations pledging their allegiance to the cause by showing how they have converted to biodegradable straws, and now your favourite brewery and pub estate have joined in too.

As we learn more and more about the damage certain materials do to the earth we find more creative ways to reduce the impact we make. The earth has finite resources and so wherever we can use renewable materials for ‘single-use’ applications rather than disposable materials, and wherever we can restrict the use of plastics to applications where they are at least used multiple times, then we are doing our bit.

It may seem that swapping plastic straws for biodegradable straws and not putting them in drinks automatically is a mere drop in the ocean, but at Ossett Brewery we recognise that any drop in the ocean has an impact, and we are all responsible in our own little way for reducing that impact.  

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