PETALING JAYA: Bamboo, paper, metal – take your pick – just not plastic.
The plastic straw ban in the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan that went into effect on Jan 1 has trickled down to the Klang Valley, with many eateries here voluntarily doing away with them.
Some restaurants have started to provide plastic straws on request only, while others offer paper, metal or bamboo alternatives.
Car detailing shop owner Muhammad Zikry Fadhly, 25, is a little concerned that the reusable straws are not washed properly, but does not mind using it as long as it is clean.
“Not using straws is a small matter, straw or no straw, still can drink. We do not use straws at home, so there is no difference when we are dining out,” the 25-year-old said.
“As long as the straw doesn’t melt in the drink, I don’t mind using any type of straw,” electrical component manufacturer Artemis Lin said.
The 49-year-old lauded the practice as an encouraging move with a global environmental impact but said that to create real behaviour change, the government needs to encourage manufacturers to produce reusable alternatives that will make it convenient for consumers.
For 26-year-old T. Balamurugan, the plastic straws are needed as he has sensitive teeth.
“I want the plastic straws back. If I were to drink a cold drink without a straw, I will feel pain in my teeth,” he said.
Balamurugan said he is unwilling to purchase and carry around a reusable straw, but have no qualms with using metal straws if provided by the eateries.
Reporter Bernard Cheah, 35, who carries two metal straws in his car does not find it a hassle to wash the straws after every meal.
“I’m okay with washing the straws as they come with a brush and pouch, I can wash them whenever I want.
“In the worst case scenario, I will rinse it first with some water and wash at home later,” he said.
Cafe workers said while moving from plastic straws to reusable straws was painless, washing the reusable straws can be cumbersome.
Jibby and Co supervisor Reza Ferdiansyah said they first used bamboo straws but switched to metal straws after receiving customer complaints that the porous bamboo straws had an odd smell.
“To wash the straws, we have to soak the straws, scrub the inside of each straw with a pipe cleaner, put it in a dishwasher, and finally, wipe each straw,” Reza said.
Dome Cafe offers customers disposable paper straws, but supervisor Nurizzatul Nissa said some customers do not like the taste of the paper.
“The paper straw goes soft in the drink after a while, so customers end up asking for extra straws,” she said, adding that some still request for plastic straws.
Founder of Zero Waste Malaysia Aurora Tin said the no plastic straw trend, as part of the wider eco-friendly lifestyle, is picking up among both consumers and companies.
“Now when we go to coffeeshops, mamak and restaurants, you can see the ‘Tak Nak Straw’ poster,” she said, adding that some restaurants have gone a step further in reducing their plastic waste beyond straws.
“A lot of people don’t agree with the ban as they think plastic straws are insignificant, but the ban has a bigger impact - it is not about the straw but about providing education, awareness, and motivation for people to rethink their waste consumption,” she said.
Tin does not recommend people to purchase reusable straws, saying that the easiest way to consume a drink is by drinking straight from the cup.
“If someone shows interest in reusable straws, I recommend that they get a bamboo straw first to try if they can get used to washing and using it on-the-go.
“If they like it, they can then upgrade to a metal straw.
“If they don’t, they can just drink straight from the cup,” she said, adding that a reusable straw is still needed for the popular bubble tea drinks.
Most importantly, the plastic straw ban is a starting point for people to start being mindful about the plastic trash that they produce every day, Tin said.
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