Ditching plastics? Ridgefield businesses like idea but not the costs

Ridgefield businesses said that they were open to the idea of ditching plastic drinking straws for more environmentally-friendly alternatives — but that the high cost of doing so might prevent them from doing so.

“We do have a couple of new vendors [who offer] alternatives to plastics, but they’re very, very high cost at the moment,” said Sarit Wiener, owner of KaFo on Main Street.

She estimated that the shop already serves about 90% of its drinks and baked goods on washable ceramic dishes.

John Malesol, who owns Johnny Gelato, said his business uses more paper cups than plastics — including straws. He said his business “could go back to paper straws — that’s what everyone used when I was a kid,” in the 1950s and ’60s.

But he speculated that the paper straws would probably cost three times as much.

Felipe Pelaez, owner Tazza Cafe on Main Street, suggested the cost is far higher. After customers asked about getting rid of plastic straws, he said he looked into ordering straws made from a plastic alternative.

The cost would be about five times what he currently pays for a case of straws, he told The Press. A typical case of 2,000 straws now runs him $16. The plastic alternative he considered would have cost about $80.

“It’s extremely expensive,” Palaez said. He estimates that during the summer he orders one case every week.

Patrons have also asked Palaez to leave off the plastic lid that comes with hot coffee — something he has avoided out of concern that a customer might be burned.

Deborah Ann’s on Main Street switched over to paper cups and wooden spoons for serving ice cream and milkshakes, out of concern for the environment. But plastic spoons have proven resistantly popular, and have returned next to their paper counterparts.


Still others have raised concerns that doing away with plastic straws altogether could harm disabled and elderly patrons, who sometimes rely on straws to help them drink.

Plastic straws can be a lifeline for people living with disabilities, according to Christina Calabro, the executive director of Western Connecticut Association for Human Rights (WeCAHR).

“I’m not for overuse of something, I’m just concerned that a total ban could negatively impact a population,” she added.

Wiener said her own father relies on a plastic straw for drinking, as he is paralyzed on one side. The straw helps him drink slowly enough to swallow.

“It’s an accommodation,” said Calabro. “It’s a way for them to get what they need.”