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Allegheny

Want a plastic straw? You'll have to ask at some Pittsburgh restaurants

Dillon Carr
| Wednesday, May 30, 2018, 2:21 p.m.
Roland's Seafood Grill on May 30, 2018.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Roland's Seafood Grill on May 30, 2018.
A menu from Roland’s Seafood Grill explains the restaurant’s policy on plastic straws.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
A menu from Roland’s Seafood Grill explains the restaurant’s policy on plastic straws.

If you don't ask for a plastic drink straw, don't expect to get one.

That's the new policy at Roland's Seafood Grill and Iron Landing in Pittsburgh's Strip District — one in a growing movement of restaurants trying to prevent plastic waste from choking ocean habitats vital to the fresh seafood industry.

“We want to make sure the oceans are kept clean,” said Ryan Carrozzi, general manager at Roland's.

The straws-upon-request policy is printed at the top of Roland's menu: “500 million straws are used and discarded every day in the United States alone. In order to reduce the pollution of our oceans, we will not be automatically providing straws with beverages. Please ask a server or bartender if you would like a straw.”

Top chefs in Boston, New York, Dallas, Chicago and elsewhere have stopped offering straws at their restaurants.

Politicians have taken notice, as well. A bill introduced this year in California would fine restaurants $25 a day if their servers provide a straw to customers without first being asked.

A New York City councilman introduced a bill last week that said restaurants should replace plastic straws with paper or metal alternatives. Seattle and Miami Beach have passed bans on plastic straws, and Malibu, Calif., is banning plastic cutlery and straws.

Carrozzi said he learned of the straws-upon-request policy at Butcher and the Rye, a restaurant and cocktail bar in Downtown Pittsburgh.

“I didn't notice it for a while because I always have a beer when we go out. But my wife noticed it one time. ... I looked around, and there were no straws,” Carrozzi said.

Some have cut out plastic straws altogether, including Lawrence­ville's Merchant Oyster Co. and sister restaurant Or, the Whale, where they use paper or metal alternatives. The straws-upon-request policy has been in place at Senti Restaurant and Wine Bar on Butler Street for a few months. And the Mad Mex in Shadyside adopted the policy in January.

Carrozzi said his patrons haven't complained since adopting the policy in late February or early March. He said the restaurant will continue to keep some straws in stock.

“Straws don't cost anything,” he said. “Maybe that's the problem, you know? They're so cheap that people just keep using them and throwing them away.”

But some restaurants aren't ready to banish straws.

McDonald's shareholders — following a recommendation from management — voted last week against a proposal that would have moved it toward ending the use of plastic straws. It has agreed to stop using plastic straws in its U.K. locations in advance of a nationwide ban.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2325, dcarr@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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