There is a movement afoot in Canada's restaurant industry to eliminate the use of plastic straws, and already North Bay restaurants are starting to get on board.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has proposed a ban on single-use plastic waste in the UK, including straws, by 2042 as part of a national plan of action to protect marine life.
May has asked Commonwealth members to do the same.
During the recent Commonwealth summit where May raised the issue, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked by reporters if Canada would adopt a ban on plastic straws. The PM did not offer a definitive response, saying instead that he would wait to discuss the matter with G7 leaders when they meet this spring.
"We have made protection of our oceans and specifically looking at plastics in the ocean, one of the key themes of our G7 Presidency and I look forward to gathering with the other G7 leaders to discuss this issue and the various solutions they put forward. I know there will be a lot of interest in Minister May's proposal and I look forward to that discussion at that time.We are very open to a broad range of ideas and suggestions. "
Restaurants across the country aren't waiting for an official decision. Instead, owners have taken it upon themselves to be eco-friendly by eliminating the use of plastic straws at their place of business. Some businesses have opted for the more expensive paper straws as an alternative.
Arugula, a North Bay restaurant, has joined the movement by switching to paper straws, making them available on request.
Tracey Kolios, owner of Arugula explains.
"One of my servers brought to my attention that she saw on Facebook, what some of the businesses were doing in Toronto to eliminate plastic straws, and she thought it would be a good idea for us to get everyone in North Bay to stop using plastic straws. We don't need plastic. They don't break down and the paper ones do a great job, so I don't think there's really a need to keep the plastic. And if somebody wants a swizzle stick they're going to get a paper straw," said Kolios.
"For the cocktails a lot of people like using a straw so I decided to look around and found these really fun paper straws that are all different colours and look a little springy, so we decided to go with them. We recognized too that some people need a straw to drink, maybe because of a disability, they can't pick up a glass. So we thought it was still important to keep straws, in case people wonder why we didn't get rid of them all together."
Server Rose-Erin Stokes said the change feels right.
"Most of the drinks we just don't put straws in. If it's something like pop or water, we just serve it. If they do ask for a straw, we'll give it to them. Most people seem to be getting on board. It's quite a big movement in bigger cities like Toronto. Lots of restaurants are doing this, and I think it's kind of a new thing for North Bay but hopefully, it's going to catch on."
The movement has opened up a dialogue in restaurants across the country.
"Reaction has been good. Not many people have been complaining about not having plastic straws. Some people ask for a straw and we tell them that we're using paper straws and as soon as you tell them we're doing it for environmental purposes, they're okay with that and say it's awesome, and they seem happy about it. I'm happy we're doing it because we're making a difference for future generations," said server Kayla Cornell.
Customer Lindsay Leggett supports the movement.
"I think it's a great thing because I also think it's a situation that not a lot of people are aware of. We use plastic in things like plastic straws at such a heavy rate that we don't stop to think that these are piling up. We know a lot about water bottles and plastic bags, but being proactive like they're doing here by not offering straws or switching to paper, is going to raise the issue and make people more aware about their own personal use of plastic, even in seemingly small things like straws" said Leggett.
"We don't need to have a complete ban just yet, but we do need to raise awareness first, and ease into it."