OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign up, Login or Learn more

Straws Suck!

Ban plastic straws in eating and drinking establishments in Sunnyvale

Photo of Kim Jelfs
19 14

Written by

How are you connected to Sunnyvale?

  • I live in Sunnyvale.

What type of applicant are you?

  • Community member

Stage of Development.

  • Early concept or idea (<few months of work)

What problem are you aiming to solve? (100 words)

The goal is to eliminate the amount of plastic pollution caused by single use straws, many of which end up littering our waterways, oceans and harming marinelife (Check out the Sea Turtle video).

Tell us more about your climate strategy or solution (500 words)

Plastic pollution in our waterways and oceans is killing marine life and seabirds. Plastic straws make the top 10 list of litter items found during International Coastal Cleanup Day. It's time to stop this problem at the source by eliminating single use plastic straws. Luckily there are many non-plastic alternatives, for those who really need a straw - We were inspired by this initiative

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (100 words)

500 million plastic straws are discarded in the U.S. every day. That is enough straw waste to wrap the circumference of the earth 2.5 times or to fill Yankee Stadium over 9 times in a year! By eliminating them we would save resources (materials needed for production) and energy (production, transportation) and reduce trash. Alternatives such as U.S. made paper or cardboard straws can be available for any customers who absolutely need them.

Explain how your idea would be implemented in Sunnyvale (700 words)

The first big step is for establishments NOT to automatically serve drinks with a straw in them. California's proposed bill 1844 would require that straws be served on request only, but it still allows the straws to be made of plastic. However, straws are just one part of the plastic problem - plastic cups, lids and cutlery should also be addressed. Many communities have shown environmental leadership with ordinances that ban not only plastic straws, but also require that all disposable food serviceware be either recyclable or certified compostable.

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (500 words)

We can build on the work done by other cities (e.g. Carmel, Santa Cruz, Alameda) who have already passed ordinances that address plastic straws and disposable foodware. For more information, check out the draft of Berkeley's proposed ordinance:

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with our partners?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Attachments: Please upload relevant attachments or graphics or show us how you came up with your idea.

Most of us don't use straws at home so why do we use them when we eat out? If you're looking for inspiration to give up your straw, check out the documentary "Straws" by Linda Booker

Evaluation results

13 evaluations so far

1. From a range of 1-5, how interested/compelled are you to bring this idea into your own life or into the city?

1 - Not Interested - 15.4%

2 - 0%

3 - 0%

4 - 15.4%

5 - Very interested - 69.2%

2. From a range of 1-5, does this idea provide benefits aside from reducing carbon emissions?

1 - Low co-benefits - 16.7%

2 - 8.3%

3 - 8.3%

4 - 8.3%

5 - High co-benefits - 58.3%

3. From a scale of 1-5, what do you feel is the feasibility of this idea to work well in Sunnyvale?

1 - Not feasible - 7.7%

2 - 15.4%

3 - 7.7%

4 - 0%

5 - Very feasible - 69.2%

4. From a range of 1-5, what is your hunch about how much this idea will cost the Sunnyvale community to implement properly?

1 - High cost to the community - 7.7%

2 - 7.7%

3 - 23.1%

4 - 23.1%

5 - Low cost to the community - 38.5%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Mike

Don't take away the straws. I love straws. Straws have solved my drinking problem. Ice tea runs down my face and dribbles on my shirt when I don't use a straw. And yes, I do have and use straws at home. Don't take away my straws.

Photo of Kim Jelfs

Hi Mike,
thanks for the comment. The proposed ban is aimed at plastic straws since they are so harmful to the environment. Luckily there are many non-plastic alternatives for those who wish to keep their straw - check out:

Photo of Tina Baumgartner

I think people use straws in restaurants because they are provided without asking. I don't always remember to say "no straw" when ordering a soda and when it comes with one it is too late. At the very least restaurants should be required to ask whether customers want one. Best to ban the altogether, though.

Photo of Kim Jelfs

Hi Tina,
GreenTown Los Altos has kicked off a "Skip The Straw" campaign, working with local restaurants and cafes to encourage them to eliminate single use plastic straws, or at least provide them to customers only upon request. Check it out:

Photo of raymond banks

Here's a thought. Refuse it when offered! Wow, what a concept.

Photo of Kim Jelfs

Thanks Raymond!

Photo of Vishwas Ganesan

Kim Jelfs Thought I should share this

Photo of Kim Jelfs

Thanks Vishwas!

Photo of Elaine

Hi Kim Jelfs -- any thoughts on how we might also change people's behavior so they don't use plastic straws at all? People hardly use straws at home and I wonder why we've become accustomed to using them when dining out. Wonder if there are ways to change behavior too. Any thoughts on that to add/enhance the Straws Suck idea?

Photo of Kim Jelfs

Thanks for the question Elaine - I wish I knew! We didn't grow up with straws so I don't use them when I eat out. One theory is that people eat in their cars more often now, but that still doesn't explain why so many straws are used in restaurants. I've added a link to the documentary "Straws" which has inspired many folks to change their behavior and "Skip The Straw" .

Photo of Jérémie Gluckman-Picard

Hey Kim Jelfs Jeremie here working with OpenIDEO to guide you in refining your idea. There is State Bill AB 1884 proposes to prohibit food facilities from providing single-use plastic straws unless requested by a customer. This would be a great effort to collaborate with and help ensure establishments do not automatically bring drinks with a straw in them.

There are a few other contributions related to a policy change that could be of value for you to reach out to. Benchmarking Requirement submitted by Yung is an excellent example.

Also check out this inspiring success story:

Photo of Kim Jelfs

Thanks Jeremie. Although I'm excited that AB 1884 would provide straws only on request, it's disappointing that they can still be PLASTIC straws! I would have loved to see an initiative similar to Carmel's, which requires that disposable food serviceware provided by restaurants be made of compostable or recyclable materials.
Kaye Toland's project is inspirational - thanks for sharing.

Photo of Diane Gordon

Jeremie, I am still trying to understand how this site works. You said in the first comment that you created a team of Phil and Nenuca. Does this mean they can both edit the idea and add to the answers to the questions?
I am added as part of the Team of 8 but I do not have this ability. Is that how it should be working? Can I only add comments if I am part of this team of 8?

Photo of Jérémie Gluckman-Picard

Thanks for following up Diane Gordon You are part of the team. I believe that this gives you comment access but not the ability to edit.
cc. Scott Shigeoka 

Photo of Jérémie Gluckman-Picard

Kim Jelfs Nenuca Syquia 
I just created a team with you two so that you can collaborate on this proposal. Feel free to encourage other advocates to create profiles on OpenIDEO and you can add them as well.
This is a great resource:
Your proposal is looking a little sparse. Do you have more data about how much straw waste is generated in Sunnyvale? How are you planning to distribute the reusable straws? Will you host programming to change citizen behavior? Feel free to add visuals to your proposal as well.

Look forward to learning more about your vision.

Photo of Kim Jelfs

Hi Jeremie,
thanks for the feedback. I've added some data and a video but this is basically a simple idea that doesn't require any major refurbishments or special equipment. It's a change in behavior, much like the plastic bag ban. Businesses can buy paper straws for their customers, and for individuals who would like a reusable straw for home use, there are many options
Sunnyvale could do educational outreach with samples from different suppliers so that businesses and residents can choose what works best for them.

Photo of Jérémie Gluckman-Picard

Awesome Kim Jelfs When I left the CAP 2.0 workshop I received a stainless steel straw, which I've been resuing - so cool. I found this activity that might help us refine your idea together. Feel free to use this to guide your thought process and let me know if you have any questions.

Define your challenge activity:

Photo of Isabella Rosado

Love the name! Have you seen the proposals Reduce take-out plastics and CJF ? These proposals also talk about reducing plastic take out utensils! It would be awesome to see collaboration between your projects!

Photo of Kim Jelfs

Yes, these are both great proposals with a similar theme to mine!
Carmel recently announced a ban on plastic straws and utensils: I'd love to see that in Sunnyvale too. Although a tax on straws/lids is a great idea, I feel we'd have a bigger environmental impact with a ban.