In April, the University of Portland (UP) in Oregon became the first university in the United States to ban plastic straws. And a number of other colleges and universities are following suit.
Restaurants, museums, colleges, and even cities are banning plastic straws amid the growing awareness of single-use plastic’s impact on the environment. A study by the EPA suggests Americans threw out more than 33 million tons of plastic in 2014 alone, contributing to the estimated 270,000 metric tons of plastic already afloat in the world’s oceans. And plastic straws and stirrers make up more than 7% of all plastic products in the environment, according to Better Alternatives Now.
UP banned plastic straws in partnership with the university’s food service provider, Bon Appétit Management Company, after learning students on campus were using nearly 9,000 straws a month.
Bon Appétit CEO and cofounder Fedele Bauccio, himself a graduate of UP, also helped the university ban the sale of plastic water bottles on campus in 2010. Now, UP will no longer provide plastic straws. Instead, they’ll offer compostable paper straws to students upon request.
Shortly after UP announced their campus-wide plastic straw ban, a number of other colleges followed suit. California State University, Chico and Knox College in Illinois decided to go strawless, while other Bon Appétit clients, like Furman University, Vassar College, Washington University in St. Louis, and Roger Williams University are in the process of doing so. And the University of Guelph in Ontario is pioneering the plastic straw ban on Canada’s college campuses.
“I’m very proud that my own alma mater, University of Portland, has made this commitment to shrink our environmental footprint together, and that others are following suit,” Bauccio says. “Straws are just one part of this massive problem, but they’re a great place to start” (Business Wire press release, 5/24; Compass Group press release, 5/31; Meyer, USA Today, 5/31; Samson, University Affairs, 6/14; Watson, NPR, 5/31).