Businesses aim to reduce waste

Local cafe limits single-use waste by switching from plastic straws to paper



CJ Robert, owner of Pups & Cups Cafe, discusses the difference between plastic and eco-friendly cups, as well as how they affect the environment and various consumers Saturday at the cafe.

ANGELICA RELENTE, Evergreen reporter

In an effort to contribute less waste to the environment, some local businesses in Pullman are offering customers alternatives to plastic straws.

One business that recently made the change is Pups & Cups Cafe in downtown Pullman. The cafe offers paper straws and six-month biodegradable straws, as well as Eco-Products cups in hopes of limiting single-use plastic waste in landfills, said CJ Robert, owner of Pups & Cups Cafe.

The cafe will use paper straws for cold beverages and biodegradable straws for blended drinks such as frappes and smoothies, she said. The biodegradable straws are offered due to the backlash she received when the switch to paper straws was publicized.

“Some people can’t do paper straws because of medical disabilities,” Robert said. “Once it blew up on Facebook, I was like, ‘Holy crap, I’m so sorry guys … I didn’t mean to be ignorant.’ So I made myself not ignorant and I researched it.”

Most of the time, paper straws fold when people use it to drink smoothies, she said. Paper straws and “fraps” are also not an ideal match because the drink can clog the straw. Metal straws, on the other hand, are not ideal for those who may have mobility issues because they might hurt themselves when trying to drink.

Environmental consciousness is something Robert has been trying to promote locally, she said.

“I think the biggest thing was seeing that turtle video everyone [saw] … [when they] pull out the straw [from its nose],” she said. “When I saw that, it broke my heart.”

Although paper straws are more costly than mass-produced plastic straws, reducing the amount of single-use plastic waste holds much more value, Robert said.

“Straws are pretty much the stepping stone for a lot of business owners,” she said.

Alongside Pups & Cups Cafe, local businesses such as Rico’s Pub provide paper straws upon request, Robert said. Main Street Squeeze has been supplying paper straws since it opened.

Rico’s switched from plastic to paper straws about a month and a half ago, but they are still backlogged with plastic sip straws, said Tawny Szumlas, manager of the pub.

Companies that supply paper products run out every other week because of the high demand, Szumlas said.

“I’m trying so hard not to backtrack and go back to plastic,” Szumlas said. “If we don’t have paper straws at all we’re not giving them out at all.”

Rico’s Pub is hoping to offer forks made of corn plastic and paper bags as well, she said.

“It’s important for us small business owners [and for] general business owners to take the step to stop using single-use plastics,” she said.

Robert aims to reach out to other businesses such as South Fork Public House and Valhalla Bar & Grill to make the straw switch as well.

“It’s sort of our civic duty,” she said. “We really have to start paying more attention and really continuing what these major cities have … been pushing for … in Pullman.”