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Dave Ferry

Dave Ferry, Co-owner, The Cambus Wallace and The Scottish Prince

I honestly think all these little changes will add up and make a difference ...

In Short ...

This is Dave Ferry. Yes, he's got great hair and makes a killer cocktail, but one of his best attributes is that he actually cares about the planet. As the owner of popular nautical-themed bars The Cambus Wallace and The Scottish Prince, Dave recently took the leap and banned plastic straws for good at his venues – and he's introduced a plastic-free scheme that is friendly to both the local cocktail swillers and the sea turtles. We took five to chat to Dave about why he gives a damn.

You recently gave plastic straws the flick in both of your venues – The Cambus Wallace and The Scottish Prince. What was the, well, final straw that prompted the change for you?
Haha, well we switched to ‘eco biodegradable’ about a year ago. That made us feel a bit better about ourselves for a while. But before long we started thinking about how long these biodegradable ones actually take to break down, and eventually we just thought enough is enough. Across both businesses we go through around 100k of straws a year so that’s a lot of unnecessary waste whether it is biodegradable or not. A young lady came in one night and she had her own stainless steel straw she carried with her in her handbag and I just thought, that’s it! We’ll ditch the plastic straws altogether, and we’ll have stainless steel ones on hand for people to buy if they ‘really’ need one.

Tell us a little more about your plastic-free scheme – how does it work?
Well for the straws, we have the stainless steel (short and long options) for purchase if a guest wants one. All proceeds from the straw sales are donated to the Marine Conservation Society. Or if a guest doesn’t want to purchase one because they may already have one at home, then they can get their money back when they return the straw. We just wanted to cover all bases to make it really easy for guests to adjust to this change. Apart from the straws, we’re systematically trying to remove all single-use plastic from our businesses. So we’re trying to move away from products such as fruit and vegetables that come wrapped in plastic, and replacing single-use plastic takeaway containers for reusable Tupperware etc.

What made you go with steel straws as opposed to a recyclable/compostable alternative?
I’m still looking at having a paper alternative for tall cocktails that demand a straw. And there’s a sugar based straw available as well. But the more we thought about it, the more we thought that 95 per cent of the time a straw isn’t really needed at all … and that’s what we’ve been finding. We’re not selling many stainless steel straws because people are mostly happy to go without which really is the ultimate objective. 
Both logistically and from a bottom line perspective, it’s a tough scheme to introduce. What’s your advice to other small businesses thinking of taking the leap and putting the environment before their business?
I know how hard it is to get ahead as a small business, and so any decision that can affect your bottom line is a tough one. But now is the time because customers get it, and they will back you for taking the effort to improve the way things are done! 
Plastic straws have played a big part in bars for as long as we can all remember. How have your customers adjusted to the change so far?
We haven’t really had any customers have a major issue with it. They ask if we’ve got a straw, and when we say “oh we don’t use plastic straws anymore” they just go “oh yeah, that’s right.” I think the timing has really helped with the major supermarket chains removing single use plastic bags last month. People are much more aware now than they were a few months ago. 
Despite the ban on plastic bags, straws are still offered freely to consumers. Do you think a Government-enforced ban on plastic straws is needed to really make a difference here?
Yeah you know, there will always be people out there who just don’t get it, or care. And if that’s what it’s going to take, then I think it can only be a positive outcome.

What else do you think locals and businesses should be doing to ensure a seamless transition into a plastic-free world?
First of all we need to be careful that we’re not just replacing the plastic with other waste. So wherever possible we should be replacing them with reusable items. I think it’s important be open to changing the way you currently do things to remove the need for the plastic item. We took our reusable cups to an outdoor event recently because we didn’t want our wine to be served in plastic cups. I wasn’t really sure how it was going to be accepted but the bar staff were great and very accommodating. I honestly think all these little changes will add up and make a difference. The next challenge is finding a plastic-free supplier for berries like strawberries, and blueberries or cherry tomatoes. It really annoys me. I know they’re sensitive to bruising, but it has to change. Especially for restaurants and bars that use them in bulk. If you read this and know the answer – call me! Haha.

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