Plastic ban stirs up emotions for swizzle stick collectors

·3 min read
Swizzle sticks, typically served with cocktails, will be part of the nationwide single-use plastic ban announced last month. (Bridgette Watson/CBC - image credit)
Swizzle sticks, typically served with cocktails, will be part of the nationwide single-use plastic ban announced last month. (Bridgette Watson/CBC - image credit)

Swizzle sticks, the little plastic stick that comes with your cocktail, will soon be a thing of the past once the new federal single-use plastic ban comes into effect.

Last month, the Liberal government announced its plan to ban some single-use plastic items to try to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030. The items included in the ban are shopping bags, cutlery, takeout containers, aluminum can ring carriers, straws and stir sticks.

The ban on stir sticks includes swizzle sticks, which are often served with cocktails so customers can mix their drinks. Though it may seem minor, swizzle sticks are collector's items for some — similar to the way people collect magnets or keychains from every city they visit.

Business owners won't be allowed to order more stock by the end of this year.

Rod Moore, owner of the Shameful Tiki Room on Vancouver's Main Street, says the inclusion of swizzle sticks in the plastic ban is "unfortunate."

Tiki lounges like his and other businesses that serve cocktails often have souvenir swizzle sticks for customers to take home as a memento — a practice that has gone on for decades.

But once the ban comes into effect, they won't be able to anymore.

"This is very imperative for the nerds that come in. We have people that come in, the first thing they say, they don't order a drink, they go, 'Can I grab a couple of your swizzle sticks?' It means that much to people."

CBC's Lisa Christensen is one of those collectors.

Her grandparents had a bar in their den, and when they made drinks for guests they'd use the swizzle sticks they'd collected from bars and hotels.

Lisa Christensen/CBC
Lisa Christensen/CBC

"If you ordered a drink, I guess you'd say that from my grandfather, who loved to play bartender, he would put one of these sticks in your drink," she said.

"I bet a lot of people have these at home."

Lisa Christensen/CBC
Lisa Christensen/CBC

Christensen has a whole shoebox full of sizzle sticks from places including Hawaii, Chicago, Acapulco, Kelowna and Vancouver.

There are also some from different airlines: Air Canada, Scandinavian Airlines, Aloha Airlines and Pan Am.

Moore, who is also a collector, has thousands of sticks.

"Anybody that did cocktails, it wasn't a tiki bar thing, it was everywhere," he said.

"There's a big history. I've got some that are from random places in New Westminster, Hope, B.C., all kinds of stuff."

Moore says he's not against a single-use plastic ban altogether; he understands the harm that single-use plastics like straws do to the environment.

But he doesn't see the swizzle stick as one-time use. He describes the stir sticks at his business as more of an artwork, having had several different versions and designs.

People either take them home as a souvenir, or, at his bar, they're washed and reused like glassware and silverware, he says.

"These don't end up in the garbage."

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