Following Scripps College’s lead from 2017, the other Claremont Colleges have limited plastic straw use for the 2018-19 academic year.
Bon Appétit Dining Services, which manages both Collins Dining Hall at Claremont McKenna College and McConnell Dining Hall at Pitzer College, implemented a company-wide plastic straw ban on May 31, Bon Appétit Director of Communications Bonnie Powell wrote in an email to TSL.
“We’ve been following the news about the overwhelming problem of single-use plastic and how more than 90 percent of plastic doesn’t get recycled, including straws,” Chief Strategy and Brand Officer Maisie Ganzler said in an interview with the Food Service Director Magazine in June.
The movement to ban straws picked up momentum after a video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw in its nostril from 2015 went viral. Since then, major companies like Alaska Airlines, Starbucks, and Hyatt have banned plastic straws — Bon Appétit among them.
While excessive plastic waste is a pertinent environment issue, not everyone supports banning plastic straws. Disability advocates explain that alternative straws — made of metal, paper, and sometimes plants — pose problems by falling apart too easily or not being flexible enough in the case of metal ones.
“When we first announced our straw ban, we saw the dismayed reaction from people with disabilities via direct emails as well as op-eds,” Powell wrote. “After consulting with four disability rights activists, we decided to create an exception and retain a small reserve of plastic straws at all of our locations.”
Although the company-wide deadline to eliminate straws is September 2019, Collins has already removed straws from the beverage area, said Jennifer Carbajal, Manager of CMC’s Bon Appétit Account. Plastic straws are available upon request at both Collins and the Hub. Both will now use paper straws as the alternative option.
“We didn’t actually poll students on this because it was a company standard that we knew we were going to put in place, and we also felt comfortable with how to execute it,” Carbajal said. “We know we might get [complaints] about not having them available, [but] CMC is just a place like any college, where students do want to see that activity happen in reducing waste and trying to be more environmentally friendly.”
Pomona College’s dining halls only use plastic straws for boba drinks about once a month, according to Jose Martinez, General Manager of Pomona College Dining Services.
“We are in the process of switching to fully compostable/biodegradable straws,” Martinez wrote in an email to TSL. “We have fully compostable straws available upon request [for students with disabilities].”
Harvey Mudd College has also phased out plastic straws but has some available upon request for students with disabilities, according to Miguel Ruvalcaba, the General Manager of Harvey Mudd College Dining Services. They also have paper straws available.
Scripps phased out its plastic straws in fall 2017, Elizabeth Hamilton, creative director of marketing and communications at Scripps, wrote in an email to TSL.
Powell thinks banning straws will lead to further waste reductions.
“Simply getting people to think about whether they ‘need’ a straw is a great first step toward getting them to ask themselves whether they need that to-go box, those plastic utensils, that plastic coffee lid,” Powell wrote.