“If everyone just had one cause the world would be a better place” – Jordan Beatty

Local Plastic Warriors

By Tia Gabruch, B.Sc., P. Biol.
September 2019

The first synthetic plastic was invented in 1907 by Belgium Chemist, Leo Baekland and over the last century, this invention has become embedded in our culture. Cosmetics, clothing, food, travelling, and even communication tools all encompass some form of plastics. Plastics have incredibly long (500 – 10,000 years) decomposition rates, resulting in our oceans, lakes, and country ditch lines to be engulfed in plastic. It does not take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that something needs to be done – or does it?

Plastic use has made 21st century life convenient; therefore, many people are hesitant to give up the luxury of single-use plastics. People are convinced there is no hope in beating the war against plastic use. What can one person in the City of Edmonton do to join the war against plastic? I was fortunate enough to sit down with one local Edmontonian who did not decide to just join the war against plastic, instead took on the role of general and took to the battlefield against the single-use plastic problem in Edmonton. General Manager of Sherlock Holmes Pub, Jordan Beatty has spearheaded the anti-straw movement here in Edmonton.  This has resulted in many pubs either banning all plastics straws in their establishments or only providing straws when requested.

Beatty began his anti-straw campaign in 2016 after he had a rude awakening during a dive trip to the Catalina Islands located in the Dominican Republic. When he was gearing up for a 120 ft wall dive, he noticed something peculiar. “It was disgusting,” he exclaimed “there were so many plastic bottles I could not see the bottom [of the ocean]. I did not even want to dive anymore; I just wanted to pick up bottles.”  After returning from his dive, still shaken from the experience, he sat down to have a drink in a high-end resort. It did not take him long to realize that no drinks came with straws. “This got me thinking,” he said, “If a world-class resort can ban the use of straws, why can’t a pub in Edmonton?”

Upon arrival from his vacation, Beatty brought up the idea to his boss of banning plastic straws at all Sherlock Holmes Pub locations in Edmonton. “It was an easy sell. I showed him it was cost-effective,” he said, “Each location goes through 10,000+ straws a week per location.” With an undeniably good pitch, Beatty’s boss supported his vision.

©

In February 2016, all Sherlock Holmes Pub locations had banned single-use plastic straws and replaced them with paper straws, but only if a customer asked for one. “Waste has drastically decreased. I used to empty the slop bucket 7 times a day, and now it is only 2 times, and it is mostly only compostable waste.”

As we all know, people do not like change. How did people receive the new non-plastic straw rules? Beatty ensured most people took to it very well, and it would open the conversation of what plastics are doing in the environment and what we here in Edmonton can do to help restore our planet. Only 2% of people would put up a fuss exclaiming “I fought the war so can drink from a straw.” In this case, all you can do is educate them while handing them a paper straw.

Amazingly enough, Beatty’s vision has not just stopped at the removal of plastic straws. In addition, he has committed to switching over all take-out containers and cutlery to plant-based material from World Centric®. These containers can biodegrade within six months to one year – quite the improvement from 500 years. Furthermore, Sherlock Holmes Pubs use glass condiment containers, recycle their kegs, grease, and have even grown their own herbs!

Amongst all this progress, a humble Beatty acknowledges there is still room for improvement. Compost programs for businesses, compostable garbage bags, and making recycling more accessible for downtown businesses all need to be addressed. He plans to continually be striving to try to make the world a cleaner place “If everyone just had one cause…” he said, “the world would be a better place.”

 

====================
About the Author:
Tia Gabruch obtained her Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences degree from the University of Alberta in 2013. Since then, she has worked as an Environmental Scientist reclaiming watercourses and terrestrial land back to its original state following the release of a contaminant. In addition, Miss Gabruch has volunteered internationally in Madagascar and Belize where she worked with organizations to aid in Marine Conservation and Wildlife Rehabilitation efforts.