Plastic straw ban won’t work without awareness, coffee shop owners say

Syed Jaymal Zahiid
Plastic straws are seen at restaurant in Kuala Lumpur September 22, 2018. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 23 — Coffee shop proprietors have urged the government to focus on educating consumers about the harm of plastic straws, following the announcement of a limited ban starting 2020.

Datuk Ho Su Mong President Malaysia Singapore Coffeeshop Proprietors General said replacing plastic with biodegradable straws is not sustainable as these cost double the price of conventional straws.

He suggested the move could potentially increase menu prices as operators will likely pass the cost to customers.

“We, in general, support the idea of not using plastic straws for environmental preservation, but we have to go through a period of educating the public,” Ho told Malay Mail when contacted.

“Using paper straws is too expensive as each straw costs us about 12 sen or so.”

Smaller operators will likely be hurt most by the policy as bigger outlets could easily absorb the added cost, Ho noted.

He explained this was why he was mooting an informational campaign to educate the public to refrain from using straws in general, saying this would achieve a similar outcome without adding burden to shop operators.

“We feel taking the drink directly from the glass or cups will be healthier, so I think the public should support our idea of not using straws at all,” Ho said.

Federal Territories Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Adnan Mohd Ikhsan said this week that plastic straws will be banned in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, and Labuan in two years' time.

The move could see business owners losing their licences, fined or even imprisoned for non-compliance.

Not all of society welcomed the move. Disabled communities, for example, said banning plastic straws will affect people with physical disabilities as reusable alternatives are not safe.

The Malaysian Spinal Cord Injury Advocacy Association, in a statement issued earlier today, said plastic straws are an accessible tool for some people with physical disabilities — like those with spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, or hand amputations — to drink or consume liquids like soup.

Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad said it was not an issue since operators will provide alternative straws.

“Actually it is aimed at the food outlets so as not to provide conventional plastic straws to their customers,” Khalid told Malay Mail.

“They would be asked to provide alternative straws i.e. paper straws or straws which are biodegradable.

“Of course if the disabled wish to use conventional straws for one reason or other then the outlets would not be fined for supplying these straws to the OKU. The issue of fining the OKU actually does not arise,” he said.

Khalid also dismissed the concern about costs, saying the difference is marginal.

“Cost difference between plastic and alternative straw is minimal, probably less than half sen,” he said.

“So it should not be of concern. However the first year ‘soft launch’ is aimed at handling all such issues if any.”

Commenting on that, Ho said Khalid’s ministry should make it a point to include this in their classroom campaign especially in their health education lessons.

“Education plays an important part so the ministry concerned should make it a point to include this in their classroom campaign especially in their health education lessons,” he said.

“We also hope the local government will play a part in this campaign as well as they are directly involved with the outlets,” he added.

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