Fighting pollution by saying ‘no’ to plastic straws

Fighting pollution by saying ‘no’ to plastic straws

Several hundred retailers made the switch in November as part of the “Strawless in Seattle” campaign, organized by Dune Ives, executive director of The Lonely Whale Foundation.

“Single use plastics are pervasive in our everyday life — it’s everywhere and very little of it is recyclable. We have this unnecessary waste product becoming fish food,” Ives said. “We wanted to wake people up and make them feel really powerful, that something they did would make a difference.”

As part of its commitment to sustainable products, Seattle’s Safeco Field, home of the Mariners, does not use plastic straws, stir sticks or utensils. The ballpark won Major League Baseball’s the 2017 “Green Glove Award” for its recycling efforts. Only four percent of the waste generated there goes to the landfill, the rest is recycled or composted.

“It was a fairly invisible kind of a change for us and it didn’t affect us operationally,” said Rebecca Hale, director of public information for the Mariners. “I don’t think that a lot of people even realize that the straws and the knives and the forks and all of that are going into the compost stream.”

Basically what we are asking you to do is DO LESS: less consumption, less waste, less straws.

Basically what we are asking you to do is DO LESS: less consumption, less waste, less straws.

Hale admits that first-generation compostable utensils had some problems. For instance, spoons would melt in hot soup. But current products perform just like the non-sustainable items they replace, she said.

What Can I Do?

The environmental group The Last Plastic Straw suggests:

  • Request “no straw” at bars and restaurants.
  • Encourage your favorite eateries to only provide straws on request and to use compostable or reusable options to the plastic straw.
  • Share your commitment with others.

“Basically what we are asking you to do is DO LESS: less consumption, less waste, less straws,” the site says.

More Resources

  • The Be Straw Free campaign, run by the nonprofit recycler eco-cycle, has information for businesses that serve straws and consumer who use them, as well as the Straw Free Pledge.
  • StrawFree.org sells eco-friendly bamboo straws on its website. Each one is hand-cut from locally harvested bamboo that would otherwise go to the landfill.
  • Strawless Ocean, an initiative powered by Lonely Whale, has links to alternative straws and ways you can share your passion for environmental responsibility.

CORRECTION (April 22, 2018, 4:52 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article included an incorrect statistic, attributed to the National Park Service, that Americans throw away 500 million drinking straws a day, or 1.6 a day per person. That figure, which has since been debunked in several publications, originally came from the environmental group Be Straw Free, and does not appear to have been based on serious research. There does not appear to be any reliable figure on how many straws are used per day or per year.

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