Intermountain Healthcare switches to straw-less lids to reduce waste, protect environment

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's largest health care system is ditching plastic straws at all of its cafés and bistros, reducing waste and helping to protect the environment.

Intermountain Healthcare was using 94,000 plastic straws per week — 4.9 million per year — at 39 locations across the state.

The nonprofit organization's change to more environmentally friendly, strawless lids is estimated to reduce the number of straws used by at least 2 million every year.

"Intermountain is committed to reducing waste and helping our environment and the communities that we serve through these initiatives," said Steve Bergstrom, director of sustainability at Intermountain Healthcare. He said phasing out straws should have a significantly positive impact on Utah's environment.

Plastics, Bergstrom said, "break down, but they never go away. The plastic in straws takes even longer to break down."

Many of those plastics then end up in streams, rivers and oceans, which is believed to be affecting marine life.

The lids that Intermountain has already begun using, Bergstrom said, use less plastic to manufacture and result in less waste, and are, therefore, more environmentally friendly than tossing millions of plastic straws into local landfills.

"It's a good feeling to know we're greatly reducing plastic usage and helping Utah's environment," said Robin Aufdenkampe, Intermountain Food and Nutrition director. She said removing straws from the cafés is one of the easiest ways to support Intermountain's sustainability efforts.

Strawless in SLC, a local campaign started by various environmental groups, has recently started asking local establishments and citizens to pledge to cut waste — specifically by not using disposable plastic straws. It has enrolled at least 95 restaurants in an effort to reduce straw usage. The campaign also has thousands of local supporters.

The local effort mimics a national movement, which includes corporations like Starbucks, which announced last year that it would eliminate plastic straws from use at its more than 28,000 stores around the world by 2020.

Getting rid of plastic straws is one of several initiatives underway at Intermountain Healthcare facilities to help reduce waste and improve the environment, as the health system believes a key to healthy communities is a cleaner environment.

Straws will still be available to patients, and by request to patrons of Intermountain's many food stops within its hospitals and clinic sites.

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Wendy Leonard is a deputy news director at Prior to this, she was a reporter for the Deseret News since 2004, covering a variety of topics, including health and medicine, police and courts, government and other issues relating to family.


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