Dining & Catering Transitions to Paper Straws

In an effort to further its commitment to sustainable practices in residential and retail outlets, Purdue Dining & Catering has committed to transitioning from the use of plastic to paper straws.

The transition from plastic to paper straws will be fully implemented by March 18thin celebration of Purdue’s sesquicentennial celebration. This will include all retail outlets, along with On-The-Go locations in the dining courts and Marriott Hall. Dining & Catering officials estimate 650,000 plastic straws were used in campus dining and retail locations last year. According to the National Parks Service, Americans use an average of 500 million straws every day, which amounts to approximately 182 billion straws per year.

“The transition to paper straws represents our commitment to sustainability and follows trends we are seeing worldwide,” says Tom Coleman, director of retail dining. “Replacing plastic straws with paper reduces environmental risk with a biodegradable product. The local impact of this transition will help reduce unnecessary waste on campus.”

The change aligns Dining & Catering with a local movement to reduce the use of plastic straws in West Lafayette. The City Council recently voted unanimously in favor of a resolution that would urge commercial and educational establishments to reduce the use of plastic straws and prevent plastic straws from being distributed at city facilities.

The paper straws initiative is aligned with Purdue’s Giant Leaps Sesquicentennial Campaign and is part of the Ideas Festival theme, Giant Leaps Toward a Sustainable Economy and Planet: Innovate Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow. The Ideas Festival is the centerpiece of the campaign and connects world-renowned speakers and Purdue expertise in a conversation on the most critical problems and opportunities facing the world.

Plastic waste has become part of global consciousness over the past several years due in large part to the efforts of numerous non-profit and grassroots organizations around the world. One of the largest of these movements is #BreakFreeFromPlastic, which is comprised of more than 1,060 groups worldwide. A viral video of a marine biologist pulling a straw out of the nose of a sea turtle while it bled gained more than 30 million views and helped spur the specific movement towards reusable straws.

The paper straws used by Dining & Catering will be locally sourced from Aardvark®, located in Fort Wayne. Aardvark® paper straws are the only such straws on the market that are made in the US, use only FDA compliant, food-grade materials, and are marine degradable and compostable.Under typical composting conditions, Aardvark® straws take 45 to 60 days to fully decompose, and six months or fewer in marine environments.

“It’s not only important to us to make this transition, but it is also exciting that we are able to partner with another Indiana-based business to make this happen,” says Coleman. “Using a locally-sourced product further contributes to an environmentally friendly practice by reducing the amount of resources used to ship product as well as the distance it must be shipped.”

Other cities and major corporations have begun movements to eliminate the use of plastic straws. In July 2018, Seattle became the largest city to ban plastic straws, followed closely by Washington, D.C., which passed legislation that became effective at the beginning of this year. Major corporations with stated commitments to transitioning away from the use of plastic straws include McDonald’s and Starbucks.

Dining & Catering is additionally bringing awareness to the reduction of straw waste through the “Make This Your Last Straw” campaign, which encourages customers to avoid using a straw.

The transition to paper straws adds to Dining & Catering’s numerous initiatives designed to promote the use of recyclable products and reduce waste. Ongoing projects include a reusable cup program, biodiesel production from fryer oil and grease products, zero-waste events, recycling programs and the use of recycled take-out containers.

Purdue Dining & Catering’s mission is to nourish and inspire the Purdue community. The organization embraces a focus on co-curricular education and leadership development as an integral part of the Purdue experience. Dining & Catering offers more

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