Plastic straws are a common form of litter in the City of Port Phillip. As a result of the City of Port Philip (CoPP) Source Reduction Plan workshop in 2017, there was a clear community concern to reduce this form of marine debris. Particpants wanted to use the template from The Last Straw and implement it locally. The project objective was to reduce plastic straw litter by engaging with cafes and bars in the CoPP and replacing their plastic straws with paper ones to reduce the impact of straw pollution. A representative from Beach Patrol (a local community group that targets marine litter) approached 9 cafes to take part in a trial of replacing plastic straws for paper ones (supplied by the project) for 2-3 months, followed by a cost-benefit analysis. Each café agreed to take part.
Each café was given 1000 paper straws, 3 x A5 flyers outlining the initiative and trial, and asked to place the straws out of sight – only offering the paper straws when requested. Extra funding was harnessed from Beach Patrol and Port Philip Council to purchase more paper straws so a further 6 cafes were brought on board. Exposure for participating cafes was done by taking photos of the cafe staff holding a cup of paper straws with the cafe name on one of their boards in the back ground. These pictures were posted on Instagram and Facebook with a #lastplasticstraw hashtag. There was a local newspaper article that highlighted the initiative and created more positive press for those participating establishments.
The project did encounter some challenges along the way, larger cafes went through their supply much faster, and if the project team did not continue to supply paper straws they would default back to plastic as demand warranted. This meant more time spent visiting cafes every 2 weeks and following up than anticipated. Also, café staff are very time poor so would often not hide straws as requested. It is more efficient to simply provide straws with drinks so that staff do not have to revisit tables repeatedly, even though hiding straws drastically reduces costs. Overall, most cafes (3/4) were happy to continue to use paper straws provide a reliable stockist was put forward.
This model is now being rolled out in other Philip Bay council areas.