We’re proud to announce that on the 29th of November 2018, The Final Straw has hit their target of displacing 100,000 plastic straws in Singapore. Founder Jonathan Tostevin, shares more below.
We started The Final Straw to tackle the problem of plastic waste. Globally, we produce 300 million tonnes of plastic every year, half of which is only for single use. Many of these single-use items, like straws, are small, light, and very difficult to recycle. At best they end up landfill; at worst, in the ocean, killing or injuring seabirds and marine life.
We wanted to change this reality. Straws were a tangible place to start, and we knew that there were better materials that could be used more sustainably, like stainless steel or bamboo, which can both be reused. We focused on targeting cafes and bars because we felt we could have a more significant impact here on the number of straws consumer, at the point where straws are given to customers. We hoped that by providing an alternative product, we could create a more sustainable system by default rather than putting the onus entirely on consumers to remember to ask every time for no straw, or to bring their own straw with them.
But changing to alternative materials isn’t straightforward for many cafes and bars. Moving to reusable straws from disposable ones requires a change in how the business operates, adding a process of cleaning them rather than simply disposing of them. It requires customers to accept a new experience, which could be risky for the outlet in a competitive F&B environment.
We were incredibly lucky to have some great early supporters who shared our vision and wanted a better solution. And more have embraced it since. Changing consumer attitudes have helped too, prompted by global anti-plastic campaigns, and many shocking images of the effects of plastic on marine life. Our research earlier this year found that 80% of people in Singapore would go without a plastic straw, and 86% would feel positive about businesses that offer sustainable alternatives.
Brand action has followed consumer awareness. We now see more and more brands looking for alternatives to plastic straws and other disposable items, in order to meet the needs of their customers and respond to the negative branding of single-use plastic. Just a year ago, the idea of using an alternative to a plastic straw would have seemed bizarre. Now, even if it’s not yet mainstream, it’s not uncommon to find various alternatives in outlets around Singapore.
There is still some way to go of course. We don’t yet have a truly sustainable solution for straws in takeaway drinks. The backlash to the ban on plastic straws at NUS earlier this month showed us that environmentalism can’t just be forced on people. We need to bring consumers and citizens with us on this journey, and design changes that inspire people and improve their lives.
We’ll be aiming to do this with more cafes, bars and hotels in Singapore and beyond over the next year. We are setting ourselves a target of displacing 1 million plastic straws by the end of 2019. Help us get there!