Brian O’Neil

November 1, 2017

Fouling the Earth doesn’t begin and end with plastic straws.

My Sunday column largely concerned my loathing of the common practice of restaurant servers plunking plastic straws in our water glasses. It’s as if we’re children, and it’s reached the point that Americans reportedly toss out 500 million plastic straws each day (all of which are still out there, buried or floating or just litter somewhere).

That column’s hook was the new Merchant Oyster Co. in Lawrenceville offering reusable metal or paper straws, a practice also of its sibling Downtown restaurant with the quirky name “or, the Whale.” I’ve learned since that Spork in Garfield also has switched to metal straws, and my email indicated that legions of diners hereabouts are annoyed by any unsolicited straw in their glasses of water or pop.

Turns out straws are just the plastic tip of Mount Trashburgh. Rebecca Bykoski, restaurant program manager for Sustainable Pittsburgh, met me for coffee downtown at Corner Mercantile, where the coffee stirrers are wood, the bags are paper, the straws are optional and patrons somehow manage.

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