Students help get straws banned from the Wahaca restaurant chain as they aim to save the planet

Cardiff University students Nia Jones and Douglas Lewns helped to get Wahaca to ditch plastic straws

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Two Cardiff University students have helped get straws banned from a popular restaurant chain.

Nia Jones, 20, and Douglas Lewns, 19, are both studying environmental geography at university in the Welsh capital.

But alongside their studies they set up the No Straw Stand – a campaign to ban straws in Cardiff and beyond.

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The pair hope by encouraging businesses and customers to think about small things they can do to help the environment they can help make a bigger impact on saving the planet.

So far the duo have had 19 businesses sign up to their initiative in Cardiff. But they’ve also had their first major success by getting restaurant chain Wahaca, which has 27 restaurants in the UK, including one in Cardiff, to ditch straws in their branches.

Nia said: “We were really pleased. We sent out a few emails at the beginning to target small businesses and then we decided to go for bigger businesses which still have an ethical ethos.

“Wahaca have a big drive to protect the oceans and use sustainable fish but they still had plastic straws. At first they said they tried paper straws but they didn’t work.

“So we emailed them and said we have biodegradable straws but we didn’t think anything of it. Then we got an email to say that we had played a really big part in them coming to their decision. It was a key moment for us.”

But now Nia and Douglas are onto their next challenge – targeting coffee shops.

Costa recently announced that they would be taking straws off their counters in a bid to tackle plastic waste.

But the pair want the chain to do more.

Nia said: “I think that is a big change. People would take them but now they have to ask for them. But it would be better if the straws didn’t impact the environment.”

For the pair it’s more than just getting stores to get rid of straws – it’s saving the planet.

And by studying at the same time they’re able to see how they can help.

“We’d love to see a change in the UK but we’re concentrating on Cardiff first,” said Nia.

“It has been a big learning curve and our experience has taken off.”

Their campaign coincides with the Prime Minister’s announcement she wants to elimate the country’s plastic waste by 2042.

Theresa May announced on Thursday that the 25-year-Environmental Plan will urge supermarkets to set up “plastic-free aisles” in their stores and extend the 5p carrier bag charge to all English retailers.

The plan will also pave way for an extra tax on single-use plastic items such as takeaway tubs.

A spokeswoman for Wahaca said straws were now being ditched across all their restaurants.

She said: “Sustainability and environmental awareness has been something Wahaca has championed since day one. We are constantly looking at ways we can reduce our overall environmental impact.

“These small changes in the way we work and operate make big changes to our climate. Last year we started the fight against single-use plastic with the launch of our Wahaca Test Kitchen in Shoreditch, London, which trialled a no plastic straws policy.

“Following the success of that and great feedback from our customers we have chosen to roll out this initiative nationwide from 2018. It felt great to get back in touch with customers and groups such as the No Straw Stand, who had taken the time to get in touch in the past and encourage us to take such steps, with the news.

“The environment is something that matters to our customers too and pushes us to constantly do better.”

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