Some restaurants ban straws from beach, but not city government

Despite the best efforts of Mayor Harry Howle, the city of Vero Beach has no plans to follow the lead of Miami Beach and other coastal communities by restricting use of plastic drinking straws on the beach.  But most seaside island restaurants are acting on their own to help protect the ocean and its inhabitants, adopting straw-less practices.

Plastic straws have become the villain for the environmentally-conscious, especially in the wake of a viral video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck up its nostril. By some estimates, the ubiquitous items take 500 years to degrade. And though they make up only a small part of the world’s plastic pollution, getting rid of them is viewed as an easy-to-implement, feel-good measure.

“We don’t use them at all,” Walter Ruiz, food and beverage manager at the Wave Kitchen & Bar at Costa d’Este Beach Resort and Spa, said of plastic straws.

Instead, Ruiz says, servers hand out biodegradable straws made of vegetable fiber on request.

Ashley Reap, a longtime server at Waldo’s at the Driftwood Resort, said the restaurant got rid of plastic straws about a year ago and added that paper straws are distributed by request only.

George Hart, owner of Mulligan’s Beach House, said all eight of his restaurants now use only biodegradable paper straws and only by request. And Will McKinnon, assistant general manager for food and beverages at Heaton’s Reef Bar & Grill at the Vero Beach Hotel and Spa, said the property hasn’t used plastic straws on the beach for years.  Paper straws for frozen drinks on the pool deck are given only if a customer asks.

Dan Culumber, who owns the Seaside Grill at Jaycee Park with wife Rose, said they discourage the use of plastic straws, but haven’t banned them.

“We ask people if they need straws or not and about half the people have turned them down,” Culumber said.  “I’ve tried paper straws, but they get too soggy.”

He added the restaurant has posted signs announcing that it’s cutting back on straws.

If Vero Beach Mayor Howle had his way, the city would ban not only plastic straws, but plastic bags, as well.

“I brought it up a year or two ago, but the rest of the council shot me down,” Howle said.

He’s awaiting the outcome of the upcoming municipal election to see if there are any changes to the council’s makeup before raising the idea again.

Kendra Cope, Indian River County’s sea turtle coordinator, says the coastline would benefit from regulations on plastic straws, plastic bags and party balloons, too.

“Public beach park regulations are something to consider,” Cope said.

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