Ricarda Braun (right) and Julie Brohée of Plastic Switch pose for a photo
Photo: Plastic Switch
Two women passionate about reducing our plastic dependency are helping to get bars on board, releasing Luxembourg’s first ever no-plastic straws label.
Julie Brohée and Ricarda Braun came up with the idea for Plastic Switch straw-free initiative after they met at a study programme at the University of Luxembourg.
The Plastic Switch team developed a methodology to audit companies around their plastic consumption. “It was a big project, meanwhile, we wanted to have a concrete impact,” Brohée told Delano. After the European Parliament announced its plans to ban certain single-use plastics to reduce marine litter, the team was surprised by the way the public fixated on plastic drinking straws.
“We thought it came with a real reason because straws really are a lifestyle item that we need to abandon,” she said, adding: “We wanted to use the straw as a gateway, it’s symbolic as the start of everything.”
The pair began contacting bars in Luxembourg. Some had already embraced the change but for others, they were either put off by the prospect of further regulation or feared being the first to make the step while not knowing how their customers would respond. “Bar owners told us they wanted to do something but it was complex to do on their own because maybe the clients would be discouraged,” said Brohée.
An EU lawyer at the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg, Brohée sees it is inevitable that bars will have to adapt in order to comply with the directive—Luxembourg has a good track record in complying with EU directives. But, she is also aware that Luxembourg is approaching the goal of zero-single use plastics from a long way behind. According to a 2016 Eurostat report, Luxembourg was the second-biggest generator of plastic waste per inhabitant in the EU, after Germany.
Liquid Bar, pictured, is one of 11 bars that carry the Plastic Switch turtle label, certifying they do not use plastic straws. It had already banned plastic straws on its own initiative when Plastic Switch got in contact. Photo: Plastic Switch/Facebook
A number of plastic reduction and recycling initiatives have since been introduced in Luxembourg, among them the Süperbag, reusable bags for loose fruit and vegetables, and the reusable Ecobox, for take-aways or doggy bags in restaurants and canteens.
But, Brohée and Braun see more can be done to accompany people and businesses through the transition. Together they hope to do this starting with baby steps, asking bars to try a week without plastic straws, using paper, silicon, compostable and even metal straws as alternatives. “We suggest they don’t give a straw [automatically] or give one only on request.” To those who argue these alternatives are costlier, Brohée reminds them by not automatically handing out straws, they can reduce the use and subsequent costs.
Thus far 11 bars have obtained the Plastic Switch turtle label and up to four others are expected to have made the switch by September.
After the summer break, the pair plan to expand their activities to restaurants, and further develop the educational strategy of Plastic Switch. “Even if straws are a baby step, I think baby steps are the most important step we can make in our lives,” Brohée said.
Avoiding plastic straws? You can find bars which have already banned them by looking for the turtle logo. Photo: Plastic Switch
Updates: The "duo" replaced by "Plastic Switch team" at 9:56am on 9 August. "straw-free initiative" added to 2nd paragraph on 14 August.