In an eco-friendly initiative, a ban has been issued on the use of plastic straws across all federal territories (Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan). The ban, which commences on January 1st 2019, is aimed at licensed traders and operators of food outlets.
Federal Territories Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Adnan Mohd Ikhsan has stated that businesses found to still be using plastic straws risk having their licenses terminated. He states “business owners may also be fined, lose their deposits, have their trading items confiscated or even face imprisonment.”
Although the terms have yet to be established, we can assume it is similar to the penalty for businesses using plastic bags and polystyrene packages. According to Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) planning executive director, Datuk Mohd Najib Mohd, merchants using the aforementioned items can be fined up to RM1,000.
Looking forward, what’s the solution?
As more countries move towards a greener future, many alternatives for plastic-use items are being established. While not currently the most affordable, prices are expected to come down as these items become more available.
For traders, merchants and small restaurants looking for solutions, these items provide an alternative to plastic straws that you can utilize in your businesses!
1. Bamboo Straws
Bamboo straws are an eco-friendly alternative to plastic straws. There’s not much to describe, but one of the major plus sides to using these is that they are reusable and bio-degradable.
Furthermore, certain retailers like Bambu include a cleaning kit together with a set of straws. The Usuk Initiative is a local brand that seeks to provide these straws to restaurants across Malaysia. According to them, cleaning these straws requires you to incorporate a care regiment that looks something liket his:
Daily: Brush the inner tube and rinse with clean tap water after use.
Weekly: Shake in warm soapy water and rinse with clean tap water
Monthly: Soak in boiled vinegar water and rinse with clean tap water.
Typically, bamboo straws costs about RM5 per unit. The lengths may vary, so be sure to know your requirements are before engaging with suppliers.
2. Paper Straws [restrict]
Paper straws are perfect for a one-time-use straw. What makes these a potential replacement for plastic is their colourful characteristics that can help highlight a businesses’s theme.
Supplies2u is a Malaysian-based company that provides these paper straws alongside a variety of other amenities. Their straws come in a wide variety of shapes and colours. Some are stylish, while others look fun and boisterous. Their straws can be ordered with a low minimum quantity or in large volume, depending on your needs.
Although paper straws are not as effective as bamboo straws, they still reduce the impact of environmental harm. They are still a more sustainable option than plastic ones.
A set of 25 pieces of paper straws could costs anywhere between RM15-30, depending on the design, making them an affordable alternative to plastic straws.
3. Metal Straws
Metal straws are gaining traction amongst the green-crowd. Environmentally conscious people have already begun carrying their own metal straws with them when venturing to their favourite cafes and restaurants.
Local zero-wastage outlet The Hive Bulk Foods sells metal straws individually at RM7 a piece, with RM1 of every purchase going towards the #TakNakStraw Campaign.
Similarly, a set of eight stainless steel straws on Lazada goes for roughly RM20, which is cheaper than purchasing from a direct retailer.
As a restaurant, you could consider this as a long-term replacement for plastic straws. They are easy to maintain as they can be cleaned in a dishwasher alongside other utensils. However, these straws are easily scratched and can’t be seen from the inside.
There are some F&B outlets that have already taken steps to adapt to the ban. Renown local cafes such as Artisan Roast Coffee, Matcho Cafe and VCR Cafe have abandoned plastic straws for reusable metal straws for their chilled drinks. Locally it’s evident that many F&B outlets are shifting towards more environmentally-friendly practices and that the ban has in fact been welcomed with open arms.
The Reasons For The Ban
Plastic waste is not just an eyesore. There are far worse consequences that this form of pollution entails.
A quick browse through the internet shows how non-biodegradable waste ends up poisoning and choking marine wildlife; while others, may end up becoming a part of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Plastic waste can be dubbed as one of the world’s greatest environmental challenges. Around 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away each year, potentially contributing up to 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans.
According to a column from The Star, Malaysia ranks 8th in the world for plastic waste.
Of the 150 million tonnes, Malaysia produces almost one million tonnes of mismanaged plastic waste (2010).
The problem extends further than an ecological basis. For example, while searching for the wreckage of the missing airliner, MH370, investigators were constantly bombarded by false leads that ended up being plastic waste.
Many countries have already begun taking steps towards a plastic-free future, and with the current plastic bag laws, Malaysia seems to be moving forward in this light.
The plastic straw ban seems like the next logical step in culling the wastage. Even fast food giants like McDonalds and KFC have ditched the plastic straw.
Many of us don’t realize just how harmful something as small as a plastic straw is. They are hard to recycle and are not biodegradable. As they begin to break down, the micro-particles may then be ingested by fish, which eventually returns to us as we eat them.
As small business owners, it is our responsibility to uphold ethical standards in our ways. Although there are adjustments and inconveniences, we should prioritize our community above the profits; and that includes the environment in which we live.
It isn’t easy to transition from using plastic straws to an alternative. This process could take months to get under-way. You can use the time between now and January to find a solution that best fits your restaurant’s theme and goals.