Albuquerque restaurants reduce straw waste

In an effort to create a greener New Mexico, the city of Albuquerque may follow in the footsteps of Santa Fe and Silver City to reduce waste by banning plastic bags and straws.

Some business leaders said their costs will rise, while others are proactively eliminating plastic.

“As customers began to deny our straws and request that we get paper straws we began to look into the cost of paper straws,” said Bryanna Boughter, a manager at Il Vicino restaurant.“We decided that it may be worth it to switch our straws, not only to save the environment, but to satisfy the many customers that were requesting them.”

Cardboard straws are an eco-friendly alternative to plastic straws, of which 500 million are thrown out each day. Some restaurants are proactively switching to biodegradable straws in light of a potential straw ban throughout Albuquerque.  

Boughter explained that though it was an expensive switch, the restaurant keeps cost down by only giving out straws upon request.

According to Boughter the straw switch serves as a reminder of the company’s effort to reduce waste, but doesn’t believe that every business should have to implement this change.

“A business owner should have the option being that plastic straws are much more expensive Boughter said.

However these businesses might not have that option due to a bill that has been proposed.

The Albuquerque Clean and Green Retail Ordinance proposed by four city councillors was approved in committee on January 28 and now goes to the full city council. The bill would ban single use plastic bags, foam food containers and plastic straws. It’s modeled after a law adopted in Santa Fe in 2013.

The straw switch out is already playing out in restaurants around town. On the University of New Mexico’s main campus, Satellite Coffee  displayed a sign that as of Jan. 28, plastic straws would no longer be given out, but would be available upon request.

According to Amanda Gerard, the operations manager for the UNM Food and University Club, there is not a ban in place. Instead, it is up to the individual vendors if they use straws, for now.

“You’ll see a pretty good variation as this keeps developing, who is on board at what time and what they’re willing to do. That means that you could see variation throughout our eateries  on campus,” Gerard said.

Restaurants on campus at the University of New Mexico said they are ready to make the change if the ordinance does pass.

“We and all of our subcontractors and franchises, always comply with the law,” Gerard said. “So, we would restrict or eliminate the usage of straws in accordance with any new laws that would take effect.”

UNM does have a green policy guiding campus departments. One program is a reusable food container option in the dining hall, where straws are not used at all.

According to the National Parks Service, the U.S. alone tosses nearly 500 million plastic straws each day, contributing to the masses of plastic thrown into the ocean each year.

Mikayla Nowell is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port. She can be contacted on Twitter @mikaylanowell.

Kaylee Trainum is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port. She can be contacted on Twitter @kaylee_trainum.