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Green Is The New Black

The Final Straw: It’s Time To Stop Sucking Singapore

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The plastic plague is real and nowhere is safe. But just how big is the problem in Singapore and how do people really feel about it? We asked our friend Jonathan Tostevin, founder of The Final Straw and author of the publication ‘Tackling plastic straw consumption in Singapore: a fact base & review of attitudes towards alternatives’ to find out more and what else we can do on this World Environment Day.

We suck! It turns out we suck a lot with plastic waste. And now we know it, thanks to a new report on plastic straws in Singapore published today. But it’s not all doom and gloom. The vast majority of us want change and are looking to our cafes and bars to lead the way. It’s time for The Final Straw.

“Why don’t I drink from a straw? Because straws are for suckers” – Anononomus (allegedly Abraham Lincoln)

Our plastic addiction
Those of us who have seen Blue Planet or A Plastic Ocean or that video of the Turtle and the straw are now familiar with the problem of single-use plastic, the massive amount of waste produced each year, and its economic, social and environmental impact.
But let’s refresh on some of the numbers. According to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, an estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic is dumped into the sea each year, and if current trends continue, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. The plastics industry is also a major contributor to global warming and climate change – estimated to account for 20% of total oil production and 15% of the annual global carbon budget in 2050.
We use A LOT of straws
So what? Singapore accounts for such a small amount of this, I hear you say. To an extent yes. But as this survey indicates the numbers are still large. We use an estimated 2.2 million plastic straws every day. That’s enough to cover our coastline twice over!
Small plastic items like straws or stirrers are particularly hard to recycle, and so they end up taking up space in landfill, which according to the Ministry of the Environment and Water and Resources (MEWR) will fill up by 2035, or into the ocean, where they injure or kill marine life, like turtles, whales, and seabirds. Although Singapore may not be the largest contributor the world’s plastic problem, there is an opportunity to lead the way and help inspire action across Asia.

“There is no such thing as away. When we throw anything away, it must go somewhere”. – Annie Leonard 

Back to the data
The Cyan Project and the Final Straw, two social enterprises focused on plastic waste, came together with AlphaBeta, an economic strategy firm to create a factual dataset based on a large-scale survey of how people in Singapore really felt about the issue, to try to understand how we might best lever change. Focusing on plastic straws seemed like a good place to start as something that consumers could engage with, and could potentially spur broader action.
We say no to plastic straws
The results showed that we use a lot of plastic straws. But most people only appear to use them because they are given them rather than by active choice. How many times have you found yourself walking away from the café / bar with a plastic straw you can’t remember asking for? Exactly.
This suggests there is an opportunity for change, and most of you confirmed this. More than 80 percent of people in Singapore indicated that they would be willing to go without a straw entirely or use an alternative.
And our F&B industry can lead the way
There are a number of great brands out there already that care deeply about the environment and embed it into their business models. We love these guys! But there are other reasons too. The report indicates that 86% of consumers feel positively about businesses saying no to plastic straws – whether going without completely or offering sustainable alternatives like bamboo or stainless steel. So there’s a commercial incentive for switching as well.
There’s an opportunity for cafes and bars to respond to their customer’s needs. Different solutions will be right for different types of outlet, but overwhelmingly across the spread of outlets, consumers are looking for sustainable options.
3 #LittleGreenSteps that F&B outlets can take today

  1. Calculate how many plastic straws you’re using now
  2. Commit to offering plastic straws only on request or offering a sustainable alternative
  3. Track your progress and promote your success to your customers

5 #LittleGreenSteps that consumers can take today

  1. Ask for no plastic straw when you order
  2. Ask for an alternative
  3. Bring your own – check out Purnama Outreach’s bamboo straws or NO!W No Waste metal straws
  4. Take the #uselessplastic pledge with WWF
  5. Sign the anti-plastic petition

It’s time to stop sucking. Do your bit Singapore.
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Jonathan is the Founder of The Final Straw, a non-profit social enterprise working with cafes and bars in Singapore to reduce plastic waste. He is a thinker who likes getting his hands dirty, working on any sort of project that makes our world a better place.