The 25 restaurants will remove about a quarter of a million straws and stirrers from the waste stream in one year.
Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group has announced a huge win for the environment: their 25 restaurants will offer paper drinking straws upon request starting in July. The move came after a longtime partnership between Plastic Pollution Coalition and Mario Batali, a PPC notable member, and Elizabeth Meltz, Director of Environmental Health for B&BHG.
B&BHG’s former Las Vegas Culinary Director, Jason Neve, was the first to take notice of a strawfree campaign to reduce plastic waste in 2013. Astounded by the sheer volume of waste that plastic straws create, he asked if there was something our restaurants could do to help reduce the amount of plastic that enters the waste stream. “Why kill a sea turtle, if you don’t have to?” asks Neve, plainly.
Elizabeth Meltz worked with Dianna Cohen, co-founder and CEO of PPC, to think through how to implement Jason’s idea. “I did a quick audit and discovered that our restaurant group alone could remove a quarter of a million straws and stirrers from the waste stream in one year,” says Meltz. Further research revealed that every day 500 million straws are used in America alone. “So if we institute a ‘straws upon request’ policy we could take out a small chunk from that total.”
To that end, Meltz removed plastic straws from the restaurants in late 2013 and replaced them with corn-based compostable straws served only upon request. While the initiative was a step in the right direction, bioplastics can only be broken down in certain facilities, and they also look like plastic which made it difficult to convey its environmental impact. Today, B&BHG has partnered with Aardvark Paper Drinking Straws to offer colorful paper straws which break down easily.
“I love this initiative for so many reasons,” says Mario Batali: "it reduces plastic in our waste stream without compromising the customer experience. If you want a straw, you can still get one!”
The implementation of paper straws is another step in B&BHG’s initiatives that have led the restaurants to become green certified™. Other efforts include composting, a no bottled water policy, sustainable purchasing practices and more. “While other restaurants may stop at the required number of steps to attain this goal, we thought outside the box on this one,” says Meltz. “You don’t get bonus points for eliminating straws, but our team loves the challenge of being one step ahead and doing more than the minimum.”
Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich are the distinctive forces behind B&B Hospitality Group: an eclectic group of critically acclaimed restaurants in New York, Las Vegas, California, and Singapore.