Our local community outdoor pool closes this week, so I suppose that really means that summer is about over. And so is iced coffee season.
Just kidding. It's always coffee season, but summer is when cold brew really seems to hit the spot. Which I mention because it's time to update my personal straw use count.
For July, it was three: all of them iced coffees from local shops (which aren't using those fancy Starbucks-style sip tops yet).
August was another three iced coffees with straws, one of them a paper straw. And two in a margarita. Because margaritas are also essential in the summer.
At one of those local coffee places, I noticed a sign carefully pointing out what people should do with their straws and cups, including a bin for compostable products along with the others for more typical recyclable and waste items.
That local pool and other parks also added new bins for compostable items alongside recycling and trash containers. (I live in Ann Arbor, Mich., so I was surprised that there weren't more recycling bins previously in city parks. But they were reinforced, along with the added compost collection points, in July.)
So I found it interesting when a friend of mine, who happens to manage one of those local coffee shops with the iced coffee that's so good in the summer, mentioned that she was tasked with talking to city leaders on behalf of local businesses about expanding its compostable pickup to places like hers.
Her coffee shop, like many others in the central business district, puts a lot of energy and some cost into selecting its foodservice products. And she shares the opinion of paper straws — that they simply don't stand up for long or heavy use.
At her shop, rather than paper straws, they select plastic straws that promise to degrade in a landfill setting. Same with their plastic cups, spoons and other items that people take with them when they leave. The shop even works with its supplier to select items packed in plastic wrap that will degrade, or with paper that can be recycled.
And she is aware that the items listed as degradeable are not a perfect answer. Neither are items listed as compostable, since there is no guarantee those will end up in the right bin either.
But businesses like hers, along with other restaurants, want to do more, when they can. They're aware of how much waste can be generated, because they see it. They want to recycle more, but they lack the infrastructure for it, even in a liberal enclave like a college town.
Which reminds me of a lot of the efforts happening, in groups like the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, the American Chemistry Council, the Plastics Industry Association, the Association of Plastic Recyclers and so many others working to make it easier to get more post consumer plastics into the recycling stream.
That move isn't just something being driven by trade groups or multinational corporations or environmentalists. It's something that comes down to a local level, with small businesses and residents — along with companies and trade groups — tackling what they can, even if that adds up to a little at a time.
So in the year-to-date straw count, started by Jeremy Carroll and now continued by me:
And now mine: