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Single-use utensils county’s new target

January 3, 2019

When eliminating the use of plastics, it’s best to start simple : with straws.

That was the approach the Allen County Department of Environmental Management took in April when it launched the “No Straw, Please” campaign, which challenged residents and businesses to stop using plastic straws.

“It’s kind of easy to eliminate that from most people’s lives,” said Jodi Leamon, business technical coordinator for the department. “We thought it would be a great thing to start with.”

Between April and September, the department handed out 2,000 steel straws to the community at various events.

Aardvark Straws also donated boxes of paper straws to the initiative, which were given out to participating restaurants. Fifteen restaurants took advantage of the boxes to see whether paper straws were a good option for their business.

In an email last week, the department called the campaign one of its biggest accomplishments in 2018.

Going into this year, the campaign against single-use plastic will continue, but this time it will focus on plastic utensils, with the new project launching in April.

Bravas Burgers, owned by siblings Becky and Bo Gonzalez, switched to paper straws in October 2017 : before they heard about “No Straw, Please.”

Bravas stopped automatically providing straws with drinks, but if customers request one, they receive a paper straw. The feedback has been positive, with many excited to learn about the switch.

With the success of no straws, Becky Gonzalez said Bravas will continue to use paper products.

“We’re actually trying to figure out how to get rid of other single-use products that we have here in the restaurant,” Becky said.

One of the major reasons to eliminate straws in Allen County is limited landfill space, Leamon said.

The goal of her department has always been landfill diversion, and she said single-use plastics, specifically lightweight and small items, easily become litter.

“We have three rivers here, and a lot of people think the straw issue is an ocean issue,” Leamon said. “We really felt like we wanted to promote the fact that we have very valuable habitats here in our area that need to be protected.”

While Leamon said recycling efforts are great, the world won’t get by on that alone. Instead, she said the focus should be on reducing the use of plastic altogether.

“Plastic will just absolutely never, ever go away. It will, thousands of years from now, break down into smaller pieces of plastic, but that is as far as it will ever go,” she said. “We’re just trying to get people to think about reducing the use of things they might not need before recycling.”

cstefanski@jg.net

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