The final straw: Oxford’s anti-plastics revolution

Nightclubs and college bars are sucking the plastic out of Oxford’s nightlife by curbing their use of plastic straws

Oxford’s clubs and bars have significantly decreased their plastic waste over the past six months, in a voluntary effort to curb their impact on the environment.

Despite the current lack of official legislation surrounding plastic waste, over 16 college bars and four Oxford nightclubs have committed to not buying plastic straws.

This conscious decision to go green has also extended to paper cups, with some bars offering discounts for those using reusable cups in an effort to reduce waste production.

The use of plastic straws is a major issue contributing to the global plastic pollution crisis. In the United States alone, nearly 500m plastic straws are thrown away every day. Because of their lightweight nature, straws easily blow into waterways and into the ocean, where they can have devastating effects on marine life.

UK environmental policy has been significantly influenced in recent years by the desire to eliminate non-recyclable plastic packaging, in what has been labelled the “Blue Planet Effect” after David Attenborough’s recent series.

Publicised measures against plastic usage, such as the Queen’s ban on single-use plastics on the Royal Estate, have helped to raise awareness of these issues.

Bars and clubs remain some of the worst culprits when it comes to the use of plastic straws. Straws are often automatically placed in drinks, only to be discarded minutes later.

Nevertheless, Oxford nightclubs and bars have been putting the planet over prices, with Atik, the O2, Bullingdon, and Plush no longer stocking plastic straws.

Many college bars have either replaced plastic straws with biodegradable options or have stopped using them altogether, with exceptions being made for those who require straws to drink for disability reasons.

Some college bars have made changes in response to motions passed in their JCRs, while others have made the switch unprompted.

Exeter College Bar is attempting to phase out the consumption of paper straws by storing them out of sight. University College has removed straws without providing alternatives.

Cherwell understands that Green Templeton College Bar, the Oxford Union Bar, and Purple Turtle are have yet to make changes to their straw provision practices.

GTC and Purple Turtle continue to stock plastic straws on a request-only basis, while the Union Bar is “currently looking into” low-cost straw alternatives.

Of the seven balls held in Trinity Term, only Oriel Commemoration Ball, Green Templeton Ball, and Lincoln Ball committed to not using plastic straws.

A member of the Lincoln ball committee told Cherwell: “No plastic straws will be stocked by our bars on the night of the ball. Other privately run bars may stock straws, but will be requested not to give them out unless specifically requested. Every effort will be made to recycle waste from the ball where possible.”

An Oriel ball committee member added: “Our suppliers have agreed to use a mixture of paper and biodegradable straws so the ball will be plastic straw free.”

A GTC ball committee member said: “We are not planning on having straws at our Ball as I find this an unnecessary creation of waste.”

In contrast, there was little effort to reduce the use of plastic straws at the Keble Ball and St Edmund Hall Ball, where attendees reported that straws were served nearly every drink. Following St Edmund Hall Ball, many straws were left in an open grate near the bar area.

Other Oxford businesses have also joined the anti-plastics movement, including Turl Street Kitchen, Jericho Coffee Traders, and All Bar One.

Speaking on behalf of Oxford’s local anti-plastics action group, Oxford Action on Plastic Pollution, former Oxford Green Party Treasurer Hazel Dawe told Cherwell: “We would like to see a complete ban on plastic straws in the City of Oxford. And straws aren’t the only form of single use plastic.

“We should all be using our own reusable coffee cups, not throwing away plastic coffee cups. Take away food should be served in biodegradable containers not plastic. Plastic cutlery should be replaced with wooden cutlery.

“There is so much more we could be doing. Oxford should be leading the way on getting rid of single use plastic.”