Two California Baptist University dining locations, Wanda’s and Shake Smart, began to implement the use of paper straws in December 2019. Eric DaCosta, assistant director of Food Services, said these locations began to offer paper rather than plastic straws because the companies that license those locations decided to begin supplying their locations with paper straws.
“For some of our “(locations) we are like a franchisee,” DaCosta said. “For example, if Chick-fil-A decided to go to paper straws, we have to go in that direction because we carry their product. For Shake Smart, we are a licensee so we have to follow what they are offering with their paper supplies.”
Wanda’s is a food service that sells Starbucks products. As a result, it receives supplies, including straws, from the Starbucks company. In July 2018, Starbucks committed to eliminating plastic straws from its locations by 2020 by implementing straws made of materials other than plastic, as well as newly designed lids. Shake Smart has also begun to move toward more environmentally-friendly straw materials at its locations.
Many companies have begun to implement more environmentally-friendly options, including paper straws, as a result of the growing concern about the effects of plastic waste on the environment and wildlife. The Environmental Protection Agency said plastic waste breaks into smaller pieces known as microplastics over time, which can accumulate in marine ecosystems. Therefore, plastic products such as straws could damage these marine ecosystems, harm wildlife and emit toxins. On the other hand, paper straws are biodegradable and much less likely to harm wildlife.
However, customers have expressed concerns because paper straws are less durable than plastic straws, which can make them more difficult to use, affect the taste of a drink and require customers to use more straws during each visit.
“While I agree with the concerns of students about paper straws, I also think this could be beneficial for the environment,” said Mackenzie Hernandez, freshman communication sciences and disorders major. “Paper straws are biodegradable, unlike plastic, so using them at dining locations such as Wanda’s could benefit wildlife.”
In addition to their durability issues, paper straws are more expensive than plastic straws, which can make it more difficult for businesses to find a cost-effective method to implement paper straws. DaCosta also said paper straws often lead to customer dissatisfaction.
“I do not like paper straws because they make everything taste bad. They get flimsy and they do not work after a while,” said Mataya Chidester, freshman exercise science major.
Although other dining locations on campus still use plastic straws, many including Foodology, El Monte Grill and Delect-a-Bowls use other environmentally-friendly items, including biodegradable and recycled bowls and containers.
DaCosta said while there are no current plans to eliminate plastic straws at any other dining locations on campus, transitioning fully to paper straws is a possibility in the future.
“We generally take it year by year and see what the cost is and if it makes sense,” DaCosta said. “We have discussions about if it is cost-effective, what the customer wants and what is best for the university. There are many different factors.”