Plastic straws banned on The Bluff, replaced with paper straws

By Danny Politoski | April 18, 2018 3:30pm
Michael Batista ringing up a student's meal from the grill at the Global Food station in the commons.
Media Credit: Sarah Varney / The Beacon

“Used for minutes, but here for centuries.” 

This phrase can be read on the signs around campus and in Bon Appetit eateries at University of Portland, as plastic straws have been replaced with paper straws in all campus restaurants at UP as of Wednesday.

Bon Appetit General Manager Kirk Mustain said that he worked with the Environmental Studies Department, including Department Chair Dr. Steve Kolmes, on this decision.

“(The Environmental department) brought it to my attention on why it was an important thing to do and we brought it out of our operations,” Mustain said.

In 2010, UP was the first University on the west coast to ban disposable plastic water bottle sales, and according to Kolmes, UP may be the first university in the U.S. to have a successful initiative to ban plastic straws. 

The University of Portland has banned plastic straws.
by Danny Politoski / The Beacon

“To the best of my knowledge, there’s only one other University that has taken up the initiative to ban plastic straws in the world… the University of Portsmouth in England,” Kolmes said.

According to Kolmes, we use 9,000 straws a month at UP. If the straws are layed back to back, that’s over a mile of straws a month, and over 13 miles a year. Which means for an average student, by the time they graduate there will have been 55 miles of plastic straws produced in the time they were at UP. That’s the same as the height of a 20,000 story building. 

The new straws, along with being paper, are no longer wrapped in a plastic casing. The straws are now kept in covered containers with a push tab to release a straw, which will protect the straws from germs in the air. 

The University of Portland has banned plastic straws.
by Danny Politoski / The Beacon

Kolmes said this whole movement started with Professor Tara Prestholdt’s motorcycle trip down the Americas and the horrific scenes that she saw there. 

“Sadly, one of my big takeaways was that the Americas are choking to death on plastic… From top to bottom, from desert to ocean, plastic waste… I returned desperate to make a difference, and with the help of Steve Kolmes we worked with Kirk, then Kirk made it happen,” Prestholdt explained in an email to The Beacon.

“I couldn’t be more pleased that Bon Appetit has stepped up,” Kolmes said. “As of today UP is done with plastic straws and I am very pleased.” 

Danny Politoski is a news reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @dpolitoski