It might not actually be the very last straw, but Gerry Jobe hopes it’ll come awfully close.
“This is the solution right here,” says the veteran B.C. bartender, who was recently a brand ambassador for Jack Daniel’s.
“This” is a super-strong, heat- and shatter-resistant glass straw that is attractive, food-safe, functional and, most importantly, reusable and recyclable. Oh – and it’s cheap, too.
Jobe thinks it’s the solution to a problem that’s been vexing bartenders for years: the vast amounts of plastic straws they go through. That can be two to three straws per drink for bartenders who test their cocktails as they should, which means that a busy bar can easily toss 10,000 of them in a month.
Those straws end up in the garbage and our oceans. And though a straw’s “work life” is less than 15 minutes, its afterlife can linger up to 1,000 years, which is how long it takes plastic to degrade, assuming it ever does.
The Plastic Oceans Foundation estimates that the U.S. and U.K. go through 550 million plastic straws every day, which join the 20 million tonnes of plastic that ends up in the oceans each year. It’s not just unsightly; it’s killing fish, birds and sea mammals and having untold effects on human health.
And, really, who needs a straw in the first place?
Sure, dentists love them because they keep sugary drinks off your tooth enamel and prevent hot and cold beverages from hurting sensitive teeth. Business owners love them because they keep lipstick off their glassware. Cocktail drinkers love them because they can slurp beverages through crushed ice and from the bottom of narrow Collins glasses.
Which is why even though bars and restaurants have tried to get rid of straws, customers still want them.
True, there are alternatives. But paper gets mushy; pasta gets soggy; bamboo is hard to clean; corn-based plastic is still litter. As for metal, Jobe says, “I don’t like the feel of it against my teeth and I don’t like the way it affects the taste of my drink.”
Enter his friend and fellow bartender Brian Grant, who is in the process of opening the Resurrection Spirits distillery. He’d found a glass straw he liked so much, he bought the distribution rights.
Skeptical, Jobe asked what made it so great. “Brian said, ‘I’m going to make you the best drink you’ve ever had,’ and he made me this really fancy glass of water with garnishes and everything. And it was incredible.”
The straws are made from old-fashioned borosilicate, rather than the soda-lime-silica that comprises 90 per cent of modern glass.
“It can take the heat and it’s tempered in a way that’s three times stronger than regular glass,” Jobe says. “I said, OK, this is next level.”
But what about cost? The cheapest glass straw Jobe could find online was $7.99, too expensive for professional use. Grant quoted him a buck-fifty.
“I said, let’s just do this. This has got to be done,” Jobe says. He took the glass straw back to his business partner, Dave Simpson, with whom he worked on Simp’s Serious Caesar Mix earlier this year. “I want 100 of them right now,” Simpson said.
And so The Last Straw Initiative was born. The website just launched this past week; 5.5- and seven-inch straws sell for one price, $1.49 each, available in boxes of 100, 400 or 1,000, including shipping.
Right now only clear glass straws are available, but coloured straws, bendy straws and etched straws are in the works.
“We’re not out to make a ton of money on this. We’re just out to solve a problem,” Jobe says. “Do I think everyone’s going to switch to glass? No, but now they have the option.”
—by Joanne Sasvari