Chicago’s largest restaurant company, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and its 120 restaurants will stop using non-biodegradable plastic straws, joining a growing movement sweeping the country. Rich Melman’s company announced they hope to phase out plastic straws at all 120 of its restaurants by the fall, the Tribune reports. While Chicago does not have a law prohibiting these straws, cities like Seattle, Oakland, and Miami Beach have bans. New York’s city council is considering similar legislation. A commonly cited number claims Americans use 500 million plastic straws daily.
LEYE’s restaurants, like the OG, R.J. Grunt’s in Lincoln Park, Beatrix, and M Burger will start using hay, paper, and biodegradable plastic straws in the coming months, according to a news release. LEYE has restaurants in nine states and the change will affect fast food and fine dining restaurants. The company credits executive partner Jerrod Melman, among others, for spearheading the effort.
Locally, DMK Restaurants notably eliminated plastic straws back in June 2017. The Shedd Aquarium led an effort to raise awareness, launching a campaign #SheddTheStraw. Single-use plastics, including coffee stirrers, are said to be a major pollutant for oceans. The Art Institute of Chicago has also banned the utensil, and the Shedd has a list of more than 125 restaurants that have ceased using straws. The list includes Big Star, Gino’s East, Harry Caray’s, Hopleaf, and more.
Earlier this month, the Tribune reported that a South Side straw factory was in crisis mode in trying to find a more environmentally friendly product to manufacture. Best Diamond Plastics has been around for a decade and supplies straws to McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Portillo’s. McDonald’s, already trying to modernize its brand with new restaurant designs and new menu items, told the Tribune that the company could phase out plastic straws by 2025. The White Sox have banned straws at its home, Guaranteed Rate Field. The Sox are reportedly the first Major League Baseball team to do so.
As well intentioned as these bans are, some are reluctant to say they make a difference. A recent column by Bloomberg News that was published in the Tribune over the weekend expressed skepticism.