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Long Island restaurant owners weigh in on Suffolk's new plastic straw ban

Robke's Country Inn in Northport switches to paper

Robke's Country Inn in Northport switches to paper straws under the new straw law. Credit: Lou Selvaggio

Two years after Suffolk County implemented a 5-cent disposable shopping bag fee, the county has banned the use of plastic straws in restaurants effective Jan. 1.

Both initiatives are meant for consumers to use their own reusable products in an attempt to reduce the environmental impact associated with plastic, something that's gained traction after reports surfaced of marine life having ingested it.

As grocers and retailers had to comply with the bag law, restaurateurs must abide by the new straw law.

Louis Selvaggio, co-owner of Robke’s Country Inn in Northport, said he started the process about six months ago when the county's Department of Health first approached the restaurant about this matter. “At first it was a little bit weird telling customers we didn’t have straws. They started coming in with their own and that was a little weird, too. But once we did a little explaining, our customers were more understanding,” he said.

Initially, the restaurant experimented with bamboo straws, but ultimately settled on paper ones. “There’s not much of a difference in price point between the plastic straws we used and the ones we are using now. So it’s not like we are spending two to three times as much on the new product — it’s more that the new product isn’t as good — it disintegrates into the drink.”

Some, like Kristen Royal, director of sustainability programs at Tayst Coffee in Oceanside, think the best solution for the environment is to go strawless, but she acknowledges that some people, particularly those with disabilities, need to use them. "If you have health issues, or if it's better for your teeth, or your own personal desire to use a straw, then go for something metal, something that’s reusable. Starting with a paper straw is a great step in the right direction, but I think you can push the needle a little bit further. Bring your own straw."

Dunkin’ began removing plastic straws, bags and stirrers, as well as foam cups, from its Suffolk restaurants at the end of 2019 and the reaction has been mixed. “We have customers who preferred the plastic straws and we have customers who have asked us to eliminate the plastic straws and are happy with the transition,” said Karen Raskopf, Dunkin' Brands' chief communications officer.

Because of this crackdown, Dunkin’ like many others, are serving its iced coffees, macchiatos and lattes with paper straws, with the option to buy stainless-steel pink and orange reusable straws.

Have an opinion that you'd like to share? Weigh in on the straw law here.

Aside from paper straws, here are five other options to stow away at home or take with you on the go:

Stainless-steel straws

FinalStraw 2.0 offers a foldable stainless steel straw that, with its case, clips right onto a set of keys. Cases are available in six colors ranging from teal and coral to gray and black. Straws come in silver, black, gold or rainbow and cost $29.50.

Bamboo straws

Bambu offers reusable bamboo straws for $10, which includes a pack of six 8-inch straws and a plant-based cleaning tool as well.

Sugar cane straws

The Sugar Cane Straw’s eco-friendly, gluten-free straws contain no plastic, petroleum, dyes, BPA or heavy metals and are best used for cold drinks. Diameters range from approximately 0.25 inches (for sipping on water or soda) to 0.5 inches (for sipping on bubble tea) and stand between approximately 8 to 10 inches. The straws start at $7.99.

Glass straws

ToMA’s glass option comes in a pack of 25 9-inch straws with two cleaning brushes that costs $29.95. They're dishwasher safe and come in multiple colors, from clear and green to blue and orange.

Silicone straws

GoSili's silicone straws are bendable and soft, and also free from potential harmful carcinogens. At $3, they are available in three sizes: 8 inches, 8.5 inches and 10 inches. The straws, which come with a travel case, are available in colors including red, purple, gray and green.

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