As the UK government proposes a ban on plastic straws today, a North East independent restaurant chain has exchanged their plastic straws for environmentally-friendly biodegradable ones.

Blackfriars and Dobson & Parnell in Newcastle and Hinnies in Whitley Bay, part of the Hooked on Group, will today be offering customers biodegradable straws as the government cracks down on their usage.

Plastic straws are one of the top ten items found during beach clean-ups with an estimated three billion being thrown away every year across the UK. Items such as plastic straws and stirrers are said to take up to 500 years to decompose if they are not recycled. The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has warned plastic waste is “choking” the seas, causing damage to the environment and putting marine wildlife in danger.

Though a straw is only used for a few minutes, it will remain in the environment and often our oceans for hundreds of years to come. This is why MCS is also calling on all the governments of the UK to put in place a levy on other single-use items including cutlery and coffee cups to reduce the amount of plastic waste.

Andy Hook, managing director of the Hooked-on Group said: “We will no longer be using any plastic straws or stirrers in any of the drinks on offer. Guests who request straws will be offered an alternative biodegradable straw which is made from abandoned ground seashells and chitin rather than plastic. Used straws will then be decomposed along with all food waste.”

Blackfriars was the first restaurant in the North East to receive a three-star rating by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) by demonstrating exceptional all-round sustainability. The rating system is recognised as the industry standard and is included in guides like Hardens and Les Routiers and is dubbed the ‘Michelin Stars of Sustainability.

Mark Linehan, managing director of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, said: “Restaurants like Blackfriars are responding to customer demand. Consumers tell us they would rather eat in a sustainable restaurant and now they have a simple means of finding somewhere to eat out that not only serves good food but also matches their values.