Two Dallas restaurants have boosted a growing trend by scrapping plastic straws. BrainDead Brewing, a craft beer brewpub coming soon to Deep Ellum, will not offer straws with drinks. And Dallas Grilled Cheese Company, the grilled-cheese-themed sandwich shop that just opened in Bishop Arts, is using straws made from paper.
They join Dallas salad chain Snappy Salads, which replaced plastic straws with the more eco-friendly paper straws in October 2014.
BrainDead and Dallas Grilled Cheese both want to decrease the amount of waste they're spewing and minimize the devastation of plastic on wildlife and the planet — even if it costs them money or temporary customer dissatisfaction.
For Dallas Grilled Cheese, it's a part of their entire ethos. Their tables are made from recycled split rail posts, and their decor includes wood reclaimed from the auditorium at Southern Methodist University.
"Paper straws cost more than plastic, and so do compostable containers, but we're willing to assimilate the cost because it's something we want to do," says Dallas Grilled Cheese Company owner Mack Simpson. "We've had a few grumbles from people who say the straws go limp or that it's difficult to stir their milkshake. So we supply them with 'eco-friendly' spoons we can wash."
Plastic straws have become an increasingly thoughtless, automatic giveaway at many restaurants, creating an unprecedented volume of trash: estimated at more than 500 million plastic straws thrown away daily in the United States. Plastics stick around forever and have surfaced as a threat to our oceans and marine wildlife, seen most vividly in the albatross chicks on the Midway Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.
BrainDead Brewing co-owner Sam Wynne is taking a stronger stance by spearheading a no-straws policy. While the brewpub, which will open in spring 2015, will emphasize on beer, it'll serve food and drink, as well. Wynne, who lives in an urban area where he spies lots of litter, says he can't find many decent reasons for straws to exist.
"I've heard from the operational side, where bar operators say they like the straws because it keeps the lipstick off the glasses," Wynne says. "But if the rim of the glass is dirty, you better believe the inside of that glass on the bottom is dirty, and that's exactly where you're putting your straw."
At Rodeo Goat, a burger joint he launched with his restaurateur father Shannon Wynne, they use biodegradable to-go containers instead of styrofoam, at a cost of 25 cents extra per container. But Sam finds straws, which are for the most part completely non-essential, to be a particular pet peeve.
"Straws, especially individually wrapped ones, have a major negative impact on the environment," he says. "A baby step in the right direction is beneficial to our planet and our descendants.
"Just being in the restaurant business, you see so much waste every single moment of every day. There's probably no way to run a completely 'green' restaurant, but we can all do a little bit better. That's what I aspire to do: a little bit better than I could. Any time I see an opportunity to do that, I'm going to do it."