The Last Straw: University of Portland and Knox College Among First U.S. Universities to Ban Plastic Straws

PALO ALTO, Calif.--()--Americans use more than 500 million straws every day — more than one per man, woman, and child. Most of them end up in the landfill or in the ocean, endangering sea creatures, as this heartbreaking viral video of a sea turtle illustrates. Numerous campaigns in England and some U.S. cities have sprung up to ban these sucky polluters.

“Straws are just one part of this massive problem, but they’re a great place to start.”

On April 18, the University of Portland (UP) in Portland, OR, became the first U.S. university to ban plastic straws at all food or beverage outlets on campus, in partnership with Bon Appétit Management Company, the university’s food service provider. (This isn’t their only groundbreaking anti-plastic “first” — together, UP and Bon Appétit also enacted the first West Coast university ban on sales of bottled water on campus, in 2010.)

The move was initiated by Environmental Studies Department Chair Dr. Steve Kolmes, and Bon Appétit General Manager Kirk Mustain was happy to implement it. UP was using approximately 9,000 straws a month. Lined up end to end over a typical four-year college span, that translates into 55 miles of straws. To help with the adjustment, Mustain gave away 400 reusable stainless-steel straws to UP students. For straw diehards, the Bon Appétit team installed on-demand dispensers with paper straws. In addition to being made from a renewable resource, paper straws are compostable and disintegrate quickly in earth or water.

A few days after UP announced its ban, a California school also went strawless, followed on April 25 by Knox College in Illinois (which, like UP, is a Bon Appétit client). The student chair of the Knox Student Senate Sustainability Committee asked for a complete ban on all straws. Director of Sustainability Initiatives Deborah Steinberg consulted with Bon Appétit’s acting General Manager, Mark Daniels, and decided to move to paper. “It has been a successful switch and an easy step to reducing the impact that the Knox community has on our global environment,” says Steinberg.

Knox had been going through 160,000 plastic straws annually. “Although the paper straws do cost more than plastic, the total cost is far outweighed by the savings to the environment,” Daniels agrees.

Other Bon Appétit higher-education clients (and at least one corporate client) are either in the process of jumping on the straw-ban wagon or discussing it. Working with a student sustainability group, Furman University in South Carolina is in the middle of switching, having gone to paper straws in two locations but transitioning the remaining two in fall.

“I’m very proud that my own alma mater, University of Portland, has made this commitment to shrink our environmental footprint together, and that others are following suit,” said Fedele Bauccio, CEO and cofounder of Bon Appétit. “Straws are just one part of this massive problem, but they’re a great place to start.”

Bon Appétit is also looking at additional plastic items that evade recycling as part of a companywide policy under development.


Bon Appétit Management Company is an on-site restaurant company operating more than 1,000 cafés in 33 states for corporations, universities, and museums — among them Google, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Art Institute of Chicago — as well as more than a dozen public restaurants, including San Francisco Chronicle Top 100 restaurant The Commissary. Bon Appétit chefs cook from scratch, including sauces, stocks, and soups. The Palo Alto–based food service company is a recognized industry leader in environmentally and socially responsible practices, with awards from organizations including the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council, James Beard Foundation, International Association of Culinary Professionals, Chefs Collaborative, Natural Resources Defense Council, Seafood Choices Alliance, and The Humane Society of the United States.


Bon Appétit Management Company
Bonnie Powell, 650-798-8022

Recent Stories

RSS feed for Bon Appétit Management Company

Release Summary

Americans use more than 500 million plastic straws every day — more than one per man, woman, and child. Students at several U.S. campuses are saying it's time to get rid of these sucky polluters.

Bon Appétit Management Company