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Paper, Not Plastic

Paper, Not Plastic

When you grab a juice or water at a Johns Hopkins Hospital eatery this month, you will no longer be sipping it from a plastic straw since the hospital is eliminating all plastic straws and switching to paper straws as part of its efforts to be more “green.”

Patients, visitors and employees will begin seeing the biodegradable option next to their forks and spoons on patient trays and in utensil dispensaries at Cobblestone Café Grille, Grille 601 and other eateries.

The idea of the switch came from Meg Fynes, a diagnostic radiologist, who sug­gested to Johns Hopkins Hospital leader­ship that not only are the straws bad for the environment, but they are wasteful too. “Many of my patients don’t use the straws given to them anyway,” Fynes says.

“People in the U.S. use half a bil­lion straws per year, and they end up in the Chesapeake Bay, ocean and landfills,” says Fynes, who sup­ports a nonprofit organization that works to restore the Chesapeake Bay. “Since Johns Hopkins is the No. 1 employer in Maryland, that means a lot of people are using straws, so this change could make an impact.” And according to Leo Dorsey, director of food and dining services, the hospital purchases nearly 970,000 straws a year.

The Johns Hopkins Hospital Nu­trition Advisory Committee, made up of nurses, physicians and other clinicians, surveyed nurse managers from 22 units to determine whether the hospital needed to offer straws to patients to sip their beverages.Committee members determined that there was still a need for certain patients, such as those who are un­able to sit upright and need the “flex” straws to hydrate.

For now, traditional plastic straws may remain at a few third-party owned facilities on campus, such as the Daily Grind, but according to Dorsey, every Johns Hopkins eatery will be stocked solely with paper straws within the coming months. And in compliance with a Baltimore City law announced in April offi­cially outlawing containers made of plastic foam, the hospital will elimi­nate its plastic foam products over the next year.

It appears that removing beverage-related plastics is a good start, but is certainly not the last straw.

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