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#StirCrazy at Sustainable Restaurant Association event

Nothing is simple! Can you think of a use for 7 million uncontaminated straws, and billions of clean stirrers?

We were invited to present the Clear Public Space’s campaign #StirCrazy at the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s (SRA). Working Group for Groups and Chains focusing on reducing plastics in London on Wednesday 11th April.

Luke Douglas-Home studying a plastic stirrer in front of images of suffering turtles and dead sea birds.

Many restaurant and waste industry participants attended the SRA event. A dozen of the industry’s biggest and best-known brands were there, alongside waste management brokers and campaign groups. Their individual support of #StirCrazy will be made public shortly.

It was a hugely beneficial event to all. Why? For helping and improving the sustainable actions of restaurants, particularly in the field of plastics.

Undoubtedly it will lead to more meetings, for restaurants to constructively and economically pull together in this huge endeavour –for all of us to re-think our use of plastics. The food industry and its customers are key players in this equation.

At the event, Luke described the “beautiful simplicity” of the #StirCrazy campaign. And some members countered: “Nothing is simple!”.

And this lead to further thought.

Namely, with regard to the petition at 38 degrees which calls on Pret a Manger to do away with plastic stirrers. At the moment, Pret put a plastic stirrer in most take away coffees.

Rather than simply just not offering them to Pret customers , we would suggest that Pret staff ask customers if they ‘want’ or ‘need’ a plastic stirrer? Rather than just putting them in each takeaway cup, as they do now. That would mean that customers need to actively desire to stir their drink with plastic, and ask to do so.

That’s one #StirCrazy thought. So members of the SRA, #StirCrazy is still “beautifully simple”!

Another member suggested that when their chain of restaurants stopped assuming their customers’ desire for straws, they started to ask customers ‘Do you NEED a straw?” rather than “do you want” and this tiny difference had a big effect on minimizing use of straws – reducing use by 80%.

Another SRA member had used the same theory to encourage recycling.

They had put a sign above the ‘general waste’ bin, saying ‘LANDFILL’ and a picture of landfill - it improved proper separation and recycling and use of other bins.

We like this way of changing behaviour – no cost (of staff time, different bins and new procedures etc) and dramatically increasing recycling rates. Yes!

The SRA event ended with a call to action – with which maybe you can help us, and the members of the SRA?

Many of the foodservice businesses that called time on straws did so quickly, so quickly in fact, that millions of plastic straws are now warehoused and gathering dust.

If you can think of environmentally and economically viable use for up to 7 million plastic straws, that involves either re-using, recycling or up-cycling them – they are not compostable – then please contact us @clearpubspace. The same applies to plastic stirrers – when a tax or a ban comes in (in the UK ) as a result of #StirCrazy campaigning, there will be many millions looking to be re-used or recycled.

It would be an unintended consequence of terrible proportions if these stockpiles of straws and stirrers end up in landfill when they haven’t even been sucked or stirred.

Our dream is that one day, plastic straws and plastic stirrers are collectors’ items – “Grand-daughter, when I was your age we used to suck and stir with these...yes! Really! Before we knew about single use plastics; in the same way that people used to smoke cigarettes to ward off disease and calm asthma”.

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