College sees straw shortage following national trend

by Lily Johnson | 9/20/18 2:35am

Across the nation, the use of paper straws as an alternative to plastic straws has risen exponentially as cities including Seattle, San Francisco and Miami Beach have moved to decrease or limit plastic straws’ use. This has led to a shortage felt on the Dartmouth campus since the College began using paper straws in May.

According to Dartmouth Dining Services associate director Don Reed, Dartmouth Dining Services is running low on its supply of paper straws. He said that the College’s distributor, Imperial Dade, moved back the estimated date for the next delivery of paper straws to the first week of October from the original delivery date in the first week of September.

Currently, only one facility in the U.S. manufactures paper straws. However, in response to increased nationwide demand for paper straws, the facility has been acquired by a larger company, Hoffmaster, in order to increase production. This pressure on paper straw production is why the College switched from using wrapped paper straws to unwrapped straws, since the supply simply ran out, Reed said.

“Unfortunately, being ahead of other places in the change to paper straws wasn’t great, as we now face a lack of supply on campus,” Reed said.

To address the straw shortage, DDS will be introducing new lids for beverages that eliminate the need for a straw and are recyclable, much like Starbucks has done recently.

Mayghan Simano, the manager of King Arthur Flour’s Baker-Berry Library location, said that the company had also considered switching to paper straws or straw-less lids, but with the increase in demand KAF has not been successful in finding a supplier. Simano added that the campus straw shortage is not currently affecting KAF, but during the first few weeks after Novack Café began carrying paper straws, KAF’s straw supply did see a significant decrease.

“We noticed that our straws were going quicker, and we had to replace them several times a day,” Simano said. “We now only give out straws for every drink since people were taking straws without buying something.”

Students’ reactions to the straw shortage have been divided, especially around the function of paper straws compared to plastic ones.

Jessica Chen ’21 said she did not originally notice the straw shortage, as she does not use straws on campus. Chen said she sees the College’s use of paper straws as a positive change but has heard of other students complaining about using paper straws. She added that she appreciates the use of paper straws, as it represents a step toward removing single-use plastics on campus.

“The whole paper straw movement is a little bit bizarre to me because there are so many instances of single-use plastics in our lives, but the nation is so focused on straws,” Chen said.

However, the shortage of paper straws did not go unnoticed by Chelsea Pike ’21, who said that she had noticed the shortage at the Collis Center, as the smoothie station has been running out of straws in the past week. Pike added that she wondered why the switch to paper straws even happened, since the College still uses plastic cups and utensils.

“I feel like I have to use three paper straws to get through my smoothie,” Pike said. “I don’t think they work very well.”

Pike said she plans on purchasing a metal straw to use instead of the paper straws. She added that she would also use the new straw-less lids and would prefer them to the paper straws.

While the straw shortage presents challenges to students who share Pike’s opinions, Chen noted that people will eventually get used to the absence of straws.

“Straws are something we grew up with and became accustomed to, so maybe without straws we will get accustomed to that too,” Chen said. “This problem is mainly about habit change — people have to get used to something different.”

According to Reed, since the switch to paper straws occurred, the metal straws available for purchase at Collis Market have already had to be reordered at least once, showing that students are turning to more sustainable options for straws. Reed added that the Office of Sustainability gave members of the Class of 2022 a spork during their First-Year Trips experience.

“The hope is that there will be less contamination with paper straws, as plastic straws aren’t recyclable,” Reed said.