Plastic straws. Convenient, ever-present, handed out like Halloween candy — and not able to be recycled. The most recent estimates tell us that in the United States alone we dispose of hundreds of millions of plastic straws each and every day, according to the Plastic Pollution Coalition. This ever-replenished army of plastic straws fills our landfills, pollutes our waterways, and is a threat to wildlife.

We’re glad to see that the issue is getting more attention recently, like in this terrific Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article, about how more restaurants are beginning to provide straws only on request. Of course, this is not news to us or to any Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant.

The “offer first” option has been among the 149 performance criteria included in this formal sustainability designation program.  More than 60 percent of Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurants are onboard, either by offering straws upon request or using environmentally-friendly alternatives like metal or paper straws. The more the merrier, we say. We’re so happy to see even more restaurants picking up the mantle of responsible consumption.

That’s why we’re also delighted to announce our Straw Forward campaign. It’s simple — throughout the summer, participating restaurants will be collecting used plastic straws to raise awareness of this important issue.  

We are working with a local artist who will turn these plastic straws into a work of art that will be publicly displayed later this year and then upcycled into another useful product instead of being destined for the landfill.

Hundreds of millions of straws thrown out every day is a daunting statistic. But we know that with your support, even small steps starting here in Pittsburgh can have an impact.