June 24. 2018 10:46PM

Strawless initiative spreading on Seacoast to reduce plastic waste

Union Leader Correspondent

Brittany Wason and James Paone of the Music Hall, say the Portsmouth venue is making small changes to help the environment and that eliminating plastic straws is an easy policy change. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

PORTSMOUTH — People visiting The Music Hall this summer might notice something different about their drinks: No straws.

The historic theater is joining a growing number of local restaurants that are moving to a “straws on demand” policy designed to reduce plastic waste.

James Paone, general manager of the front of the house at The Music Hall, said Thursday they started working with Mr. Fox Composting on Islington Street at the beginning of the month. They decided to only offer straws for people who need them and chose compostable straws to replace plastic ones.

“We feel it’s really imperative to do our part,” Paone said. “It’s such an easy thing to start with.”

Paone and Brittany Wason, content marketing and copywriting associate, were awaiting the arrival of the new straws — as well as Earth-friendly cups and popcorn containers — on Thursday.

“Any impact is helpful and if a small community like Portsmouth can do this, anyone can,” Wason said.

Leaders at The Music Hall were inspired to make the policy decision by Jay McSharry, who is the president of the board of directors.

McSharry has ownership in Jumpin’ Jay’s Fish Café, Moxy, the Franklin, Vida Cantina, Dos Amigos, White Heron Tea and the Sailmaker’s House in Portsmouth. He also owns Railpenny Tavern in Epping and Ore Nell’s Barbecue in Kittery, Maine.

All of these establishments are now straw on demand.

Morgan Kamensky, general manager at Jumpin’ Jay’s Fish Café, approached McSharry about the concept of being straw-free. She started Marshwood High School’s recycling program in South Berwick, Maine, and environmental causes have always been important to her.

“Once you start delving into it, you see video after video of straws on beaches all over the world,” Kamensky said. The straws being distributed at Kamensky’s restaurant are made of paper, which is biodegradable, she said.

Keith Tharp, owner of Sustainable Seacoast, has been working with 24 restaurants in the area as they move toward better environmental practices. He said changing the way restaurant owners view how they serve customers is the first step.

“Most of us don’t live in a house where we take a plastic cup out of the cabinet, fill it up with water, drink it and then throw it away,” Tharp said.

Tharp said the fourth and most important “R” in the phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is “Refuse.”

“Refuse things you don’t need,” Tharp said.

Tharp recommends restaurants also eliminate plastic foam products, plastic bags and offer cutlery only when it is asked for instead of inside every to-go bag.