CHICAGO — With half a billion plastic straws used and discarded by Americans every day — enough to wrap around the Earth 2½ times or fill 127 school buses — there's an undeniable impact on the planet and its ecosystems.
And DMK Restaurants has had enough.
As of June 26, the Chicago-based chain has nixed straws from all 14 of its locations, including five DMK Burger Bars in Chicago and the suburbs.
"DMK has always been devoted to sustainability," co-owners Michael Kornick and David Morton said in a statement. "We're excited to move forward with this company-wide initiative and hope that it sparks a trend in our city and beyond."
DMK Restaurants also includes two Fish Bars; Ada Street and Werewolf Coffee Bar in West Town; the temporarily closed County Barbeque in Little Italy; Downtown restaurants Marshall's Landing, Henry's and Rec Room; and one in Kansas City, Missouri.
DMK Restaurants launched in 2009 with DMK Burger Bar in Lakeview. The chain previously removed straws from Fish Bar and serves sustainable fish, grass-fed beef and local produce, but upped its green initiatives with the straw ban.
The chain joins a nationwide movement toward eliminating the hazards posed by straws and their disposal. Multiple grassroots movements like One Green Planet, Be Straw Free and The Last Plastic Straw work to make known the impact of plastic products on the environment.
Much of it ends up in oceans, where wild life will consume the trash, or it will end up trapped in one of several massive, cyclic garbage patches strewn throughout the ocean. One million seabirds die each year after eating plastic, and fish who eat plastic can then affect predators higher on the food chain like dolphins, whales and seals.
Experts in marine biology and environmental sciences have spent years pushing for an end to the use of single-use straws and the hazards they pose to wildlife — just check out the 2015 viral YouTube video of marine biologists painstakingly removing a straw lodged in a sea turtle's nose.
Chicago eateries join efforts to 'Shedd the Straw'
Last month, the Shedd Aquarium teamed up with Chicago restaurants to decrease the city's use of single-use straws, pointing out that discarded straws stay on the planet for years. Nineteen restaurants agreed to "Shedd the Straw" in a one-day effort.
In 2008, the National Restaurant Association unveiled a "green" initiative at its annual convention in Chicago, zeroing in on conserving energy and curbing waste.
Since 1990, the Green Restaurant Association has worked with eateries to promote recycling, conserving energy and water and eliminating waste.
In Chicago, 18 restaurants have been certified by the GRA, including high-profile spots like Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, Simone's and One Off Hospital Group's Avec, Blackbird and The Publican.
Others are working to decrease the use of straws at eateries like Uncommon Ground, One North Kitchen & Bar, Shaw's Crab House and Oyster Bah by switching to providing straws only upon request or eliminating them entirely.
Restaurants in cities like San Diego, New York, Miami and London have banned straws or wait until customers ask for them, and an estimated 1,800 restaurants, schools or other institutions have taken steps to get rid of plastic straws, Last Plastic Straw founder Jackie Nunez told The Washington Post in June.
Of the 100,000 pounds of garbage produced by a single restaurant each year — roughly 1½ pounds for every meal served — an estimated 95 percent could be recycled or composted, the association said.
The Ocean Conservancy's Last Straw Challenge says if 25,000 people skip straws when they are out to eat that could potentially keep up to 5 million straws out of the trash every year.