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Straws Suck Life From Landfill

Local eatery reduces restaurant waste to help

MESA COUNTY, Colo. - There's a certain kind of waste that has captivated the nation recently - plastic straws. From some cities banning them completely, to people choosing different kinds of straws, many Americans find themselves thinking about the tiny tubes. One local eatery is committed to reducing the amount of plastic straws that end up in a landfill. 

At the Mesa County Landfill, they see a lot of waste from restaurants. Whether it's food waste, to-go food containers, or just general trash, most of it does not have to end up at the landfill. "If we don't start making these changes now, we're going to pay for it in the future," said Solid Waste Director of the Mesa County Landfill Barrett Jensen. 

Jensen said there are around 500 million plastic straws thrown away every single day in the United States. "They seem small, they seem like they wouldn't really matter, especially when you look at it from an individual perspective. Oh it's just a straw, it's very little, it's not going to take up a lot of space... [But we are] filling up 127 school buses every day because of straws," said Jensen. 

That's significant, especially when our local landfill only has around 25 years left, and our trash does not seem to be slowing down. "We don't know until the end of the year, but we're projected at 10,000 tons of more waste than we saw last year," said Jensen. 

Copeka Coffee, a relatively new restaurant, is helping the Mesa County Landfill by only using paper straws, in addition to other ways they reduce their waste. "There are complications with the whole idea of eliminating straws all together, I totally get that, some people need them in order to drink beverages at all... .But the vast majority of us are doing it out of convenience and habit," said Kyra Rossier, the co-owner and general manager of Copeka Coffee. 

Those with Copeka Coffee said on their busiest days, they only produce one bag of trash all day. "Reduce waste as much as possible, so we recycle everything we possibly can and we also have a composting program," said Rossier. 

They said many restaurants may think it's difficult to set up these programs at first, but there are local resources, like the Mesa County Landfill and Copeka Coffee, that are more than willing to help. "We do have the resources to do better, so it's time to do better," said Rossier. 

The statistic about 500 million straws a day comes from Eco-Cycle, but some people estimate either more or less straws are actually discarded. There are also dissenting opinions about the statistic, because of the way it was calculated, which stems from a 9 year old boy who estimated the number. To read more about the debate behind this statistic, visit this New York Times Business Day article. 

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