Everywhere you look the resistance is growing. First, it was the public outcry against plastic bags giving rise to re-useable shopping bags now seen across every major grocery outlet. However, recent global attention and action have shifted to stemming another form of plastic waste.
From Miami to Malibu, across the Pacific to Australia, back around the globe to the UK and NYC one thing is certain: this is the last straw. But, what may seem like a global campaign against plastic straws has been a passion project for a pair of eco-friendly restauranteurs in Grand Cayman.
Lana Hargrave, co-owner of East End’s Tukka Restaurant, Eagle Ray’s Dive Bar & Grill, and the recently opened, Taco Cantina, has been making big waves with her eco-friendly campaign against plastic straws. She calls her campaign #DontSuck and aims to raise awareness against plastic straws polluting our oceans and endangering the reefs and marine life throughout the Caribbean.
“I started doing the straws campaign back in April 2017 after I saw a graphic Facebook video showing a person pulling a straw out of a turtle’s nose,” recalls Lana. “It was disgusting but so important to see. It really hit me.”
The Catalyst for a Movement
In 2015, Christine Figgener, a marine biologist at Texas A&M University, documented the horrific plight of a sea turtle and the heroic efforts it took for her team to dislodge a plastic straw that was stuck in its nose.
The video was put on YouTube and immediately went viral sparking a social media movement to eliminate plastic straws.
Earlier this month, Starbucks pledged to eliminate single-serve plastic straws from its 28,000 stores by 2020. Starbucks estimates their effort will result in eliminating over one billion plastic straws per year. Similarly, Hyatt Hotels, is stepping up their efforts to eliminate plastic straws by transitioning to alternative packaging.
Across the Atlantic, the UK government has stated a willingness to ban single-use plastics beginning in 2019 putting pressure on McDonald’s, Burger King, and Subway franchises to adapt or face fines.
Slowly, the movement is catching fire.
Plastics & The Caribbean
Caribbean nations are also working to reduce the local use of plastic straws and styrofoam food packaging. Wanting to do their part for the environment, Lana and Ron were ready to put their money where their mouth is.
“I wanted to do our part at Tukka and educate people,” explains Lana. “So, we immediately stopped putting straws in drinks that didn’t need them–juices, sodas and basic cocktails. After the first two days we only had about three people ask for a straw, or ask why they didn’t get one…. and we saved about 300-400 straws!”
But, Lana didn’t stop there. She asked her US supplier to find someone who could manufacture custom paper straws for their restaurants. “Even though these new straws cost us more, it’s worth it for the environment,” stated Lana.
“There is also a campaign, #RefuseTheStraw, on Twitter trying to get people to order their drinks and remind the server, ‘No Straws Please’,” notes Lana. If that could catch on worldwide, it would have an amazing impact!”
How You Can Help
We are incredibly proud of Lana and all that she and her husband do for the island community of Grand Cayman.
Following her lead, other island restaurants have ditched plastic straws. The Rum Point Club Restaurant and Wreck Bar in North Side, the Royal Palms Beach Club and Sunset House on Seven Mile Beach, and Ristorante Pappagallo in Morgan’s Harbor, have all replaced plastic straws with biodegradable paper alternatives. An encouraging sign from local eateries that we hope more Cayman businesses will adopt.
But it doesn’t stop with us. You can contribute to this movement while vacationing on Grand Cayman by visiting businesses committed to forgoing plastic straws. Alternatively, simply ask your server for no straws with your drink order, or say, “paper straws please!” One small change can have a global impact.
Note: Tukka, Eagle Ray’s, Taco Cantina, Rum Point Restaurant and, The Wreck Bar & Grill are all participants in our Silver Thatch preferred partner program. Just present your Silver Thatch card and receive a 10% discount off your bill.