They seem to come with every drink, whether you want one or not, only to end up in the trash soon afterward. From there, it’s all too easy for them to end up as more pieces of plastic pollution in our oceans.
But in one particular city, that might not be a problem anymore.
For the month of September, the Lonely Whale Foundation is running a campaign to encourage Seattleites to ditch their sucky plastic straws.
The campaign, Strawless in Seattle, is part of the foundations’s Strawless Ocean initiative, whose overall goal is to keep 500 million plastic straws out of American mouths and garbage cans this year.
“My mother taught me at a very young age to take care of my own environment, to clean my room,” says actor and Lonely Whale co-founder Adrian Grenier. “Now that I’m an adult, I recognize that my room has expanded, not just to my house, but also to my neighborhood and the world at large.”
So far, over 200 Seattle restaurants and venues have joined in, including the Space Needle, Sea-Tac airport, and CenturyLink Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks football team. Instead of plastic straws, businesses will either ask their patrons to go without or offer biodegradable paper straws instead.
The campaign even comes with its own hashtag, which encourages people to #stopsucking.
One individual plastic straw might seem harmless, but when we zoom out to look at what we’re doing to the planet, we’re not talking about individual straws.
There are people who might need a straw, such as someone who has mobility challenges, but for many of us, it’s a luxury — one we’re really fond of.
Americans alone use half a billion of the little suckers every single day, and once we’re done with them, they don’t stay in our drinks. Many of them find their way into our oceans. Plastic straws are actually one of the most common forms of plastic pollution in the ocean.
Plastics can be harmful in other ways too. In a particularly distressing video from 2015, researchers spent nearly 10 minutes trying to pull a discarded plastic straw out of a sea turtle’s nose. Even when these plastics break down, they never totally disappear. Instead, they turn into tinier and tinier microplastics, which can poison animals — and even find their way into our food and drinking water.
In many ways, Seattle is a natural place for The Lonely Whale to start a string of city-wide campaigns.
Sitting on the Puget Sound, the city’s already taken several steps to protect the ocean from pollution, including a 2010 ban on plastic bags. The city council is also considering expanding an ordinance to ban plastic straws and utensils from all of the city’s restaurants in 2018.
Grenier and The Lonely Whale Foundation are hoping that the early success and buy-in from Seattle businesses will not only raise attention and sway people’s hearts and minds, but also show legislators and other cities what is possible. They’re already starting to plan for future campaigns in cities both in the United States and internationally.
“We’ve only just begun,” said Grenier. “Hopefully the world is watching.”
Plastic pollution is a major problem, but through actions like these, we can make our effect on the ocean a little less sucky.
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