Image credit: The Last Plastic Straw

With Plastic Straws, We All Come Up Short

In the United States, approximately 500 million plastic straws are used and discarded each day and are consistently one of the most common items collected during beach cleanups. Straws are rarely recycled, and end up in our waterways and beaches, where they harm the marine ecosystem. This impact continues as plastics in our waterways break down into smaller pieces known as microplastics, which are consumed by wildlife. Toxic plastics enter the food chain and ultimately contaminate the seafood we eat. It is estimated that if we as a society do not change our reliance on single-use plastics, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.

What We’re Doing

Plastic Free Waterways has reached out to many restaurant associations in NY/NJ asking them to install a Straws upon request policy – providing straws only to customers that request a straw, rather than giving all customers straws.

Restaurant associations are invited to join our broad partnership, and the work group is extending an offer to meet with interested organizations, present the benefits of this voluntary program, and provide sample messaging and signage for table tops and self-serve straw dispensers.

More Information

By initiating a Straw Upon Request policy, financial resources can be saved and environmental impact can be lessened. A recent case study on a restaurant in Oakland, California found that financial benefits began immediately and saved over 15 lbs of waste annually.

The National Restaurant Association has responded to similar initiatives such as the Be Straw Free Campaign noting that “foregoing free straws would pare restaurants’ costs.” Additionally the National Restaurant Association has reported on a restaurant chain going straw free, applauding the initiative: “goal to let plastic straws be an option for consumers, as they once were, not just an automatic addition to every beverage served… From young minds often come the very best ideas – ideas from which we can all learn.” Most notably, the National Restaurant Association has adopted the “ask first” policy as a “best practice”. 

There are also positive marketing opportunities for restaurants and bars who become part of this partnership.  Numerous establishments use their efforts as positive marketing opportunities by making public commitments to their initiatives.

A voluntary “Straw Upon Request” policy benefits customers, restaurants, and the environment.

Educational Materials 

This double sided flyer was created by the American Littoral Society (PDF) to spread awareness of the problems with straws released into the environment.

Front of flyer:


Back of flyer:LittoralSociety-Flyer-Straws2

Related Resources

Rethink Disposable Case Study: The Sacred Wheel | Clean Water Action Fund & Clean Water Fund

“Hoping for the last straw” | National Restaurant Association News & Research

Be Straw Free | Eco-Cycle

“Sustainable restaurateur McKerrow signs straw-free pledge” | National Restaurant Association News & Research

American Littoral Society

Cafeteria Culture – “The Flaws of Straws”

Clean Ocean Action

Clean Water Action

River Keeper

West 80s Neighborhood Association


Plastic Pollution Coalition

The Last Plastic Straw