One of the most notorious plastic products, doing the most harm, is the ordinary drinking straw. Popular seafood franchise Ocean Basket has banned the use of straws in all its restaurants.
Each day, around the world, more than 500 million drinking straws are used and discarded. While some are recycled, most are dumped in landfills and find their way into the ocean, where plastic pollution is taking its toll on wildlife.
One million seabirds die from ingesting plastic every year, in addition to more than 100,000 other marine animals. In one example, inspecting the stomach contents of a sea turtle that died from ingesting plastic refuse, Marine Conservation Institute scientists found more than a hundred drinking straws, alongside plastic bags, cigarette butts and plastic bottle tops.
Ocean Basket has now officially implemented a ban on the use of straws – and plastic bags – in all 168 of its restaurants nationwide, rolling out during 2018. The ban is the first step the brand is taking in raising awareness of the effects of plastic pollution on the planet and its oceans. The company will also push for the ban in its restaurants around the rest of Africa, of which there are more than 20 – including in Nigeria and Zimbabwe – during the course of the year.
The move follows a global trend by the food and hospitality industry to reduce its plastic use. The US city of Seattle has banned straws and plastic packaging outright, including large fast food franchises; internationally, these large brands have yet to implement a full plastic ban. In 2017, Kenya banned the use of plastic bags completely.
Ocean Basket understands the ban is as much a moral decision as it is an economic one, stating in the official announcement of the straw ban on 10 January 2018: “The ocean sustains us with the basic elements of life; it produces half the oxygen we breathe, helps to provide the water we drink and delivers [to] us the very core of our business success – seafood.”
The company is the first large food franchise in South Africa to implement the ban, and it hopes the other big names in the industry will take note and follow suit.
“Ocean Basket is building a movement… [that] inspires all of us to prevent plastic pollution, reduce waste, improve recycling and live cleaner, healthier lives. Watch this space as we begin the rollout of projects over the next 18 months,” the company said.
Smaller independent food outlets around the country, many in the Western Cape, have also effected a ban on straws and plastics in their day-to-day operations.
Ocean Basket says the ban has been largely supported by its customers, and has encouraged consumers to take the message to social media, using the hashtag #refusethestraw to spread the word.
The company is well known for its corporate responsibility, particularly when it comes to its primary product, seafood. Ocean Basket, as per the guidelines of the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (Sassi) only uses seafood that has been harvested in a responsible, ethical manner.
Greenpeace Africa has applauded Ocean Basket for the ban, welcoming more corporate involvement and responsibility in tackling environmental challenges. It hopes that more South African companies take note of the example set by Ocean Basket and are inspired to meet the same challenge and even take it further towards the ultimate goal: the complete eradication of processed industrial plastics across the board.