There are growing efforts made by brands to go green. New companies have built whole businesses on offering sustainable products and services, and even mega corporations have followed suit. H&M launched H&M Conscious for sustainable fashion, while most of the companies in the manufacturing and energy sector have extensive green policies.
The menace of plastic straws has also gained increased attention and action. For instance, Scotland is planning to ban them by the end of 2019, while Taiwan has announced that they will be banning the plastic straws by 2030.
Right here in Singapore, KFC recently announced that that it will stop providing plastic straws in 84 of its outlets in Singapore.
As we continue our debate on whether Singapore should follow the footsteps of Scotland and Taiwan, we should consider some financial implications that may affect us.
Not Supplying Straws At All
Just like KFC, other brands may jump onto the green bandwagon and stop serving plastic straws altogether. Customers might be left with cups that have no lids when they dine-in and have to drink directly from the cup itself. It might be easier for these food and beverage chains restaurants to implement this change, since it is not hard to drink from cups without straws when dining in.
However, it would not be as easy for bubble tea shops to do the same, since they would need to provide customers with an alternate method of consuming drinks with pearls.
As this practice becomes widespread, Singaporeans would gradually need to purchase reusable straws on their own. Metal straws are perhaps a more favoured option, since they can be washed and used over and over again. Today, you can easily buy the metal straws online from stores like Ezbuy, Lazada and Qoo10. You can also buy from Singapore start-ups like Seastainable, which sells a metal straw set that consists of 1 regular straw, 1 bubble tea straw (compatible with pearls!) and brushes for cleaning.
Supplying Straws To Customers, But Imposing A ‘Penalty’
Another way companies could discourage straw use is by imposing additional charges for paper or plastic straws to their customers. In the United Kingdom, 1,300 McDonald’s stores have already replaced plastic straws with paper ones, so it is not implausible that this may happen in Singapore eventually.
Imposing additional charges may annoy customers, but companies can justify it (and make their customers feel a little better about themselves) by dedicating all proceeds for straw ‘penalties’ to a good cause, perhaps to an eco-related charity.
It is not a stretch to imagine major food courts like Koufu and Kopitiam charging 5 or even 10 cents for a straw. Places that are more likely to implement additional charges are probably places that offer dine-in options, since it is most likely optional to have a straw anyway. If you want it, you got to pay for it.
Supplying Straws, But Giving Customers Incentives To Opt Out
It may not make sense to have a takeaway drink without a straw because customers may want to drink on the go. People like to drink with a straw to avoid spilling their drink and it even acts as a stirrer for some drinks. It would cause much inconvenience if plastic straws were to be banned completely. Think about this other scenario: you, one hand holding onto a popcorn and the other holding onto an ice-cold drink, trying to navigate your way in the dark in the theatre. If straws aren’t provided, will the lids be provided? If they are not, it may actually be dangerous.
Places like cinemas, bubble tea stores or even drink stalls selling takeaway drinks may therefore then provide discount incentives for people who bring their own straws to encourage more people to reduce the consumption of plastic. The Matcha Project is one of the early adopter of this initiative and has been giving its customers a 50 cents discount for bringing their own straw.
The Final Straw
There is no better time than now to do something for the environment, and it is laudable that firms are taking steps to encourage consumers towards positive behaviours. But it is also worth noting that there are more than one ways to do this, from complete bans, to incentivising customers or imposing penalties.
Perhaps with these various mechanisms, Singaporeans will take their final plastic straw, and be on our way towards a greener, more sustainable future.