How many times have you gone to a restaurant, asked for water, and received a plastic straw in your glass? Across the world the plastic straw is dropped in drinks without a thought in restaurants and bars quickly becoming a habit for businesses and customers alike. Though it seems like a harmless piece of plastic, 500 million straws a day are used in the US alone and like many single-use plastics, many of those straws end up on our coasts and in our ocean. The International Coastal Cleanup report in 2017 found that straws were one of the top ten items collected globally on the coastlines of the planet. A widely viewed video showed the horrific consequence that straws have on marine life as an Olive Ridley sea turtle was found with one stuck in its nose.
Though one could argue that most single-use plastics are unnecessary, straws stand alone as an item that humans could really live without. Seeing a great opportunity for grassroots change, Surfrider chapters all over have taken up the cause and are spearheading straw campaigns and seeing great results. The Pacific Rim chapter successfully got the entire town of Tofino to stop using plastic straws and now have now taken on a bigger goal of making the town of Uculet plastic free by Earth Day in 2018. The Portland chapter ran a successful month long pilot campaign and now have an ambitious goal of having 150 businesses sign a pledge to be straw free and sign a petition to ban plastic straws. San Francisco and San Diego continue to make great progress on their campaigns educating consumers about the impacts of plastic straws, convincing restaurants to only serve straws on request or none at all, and building a groundswell of support for straw legislation. On the east coast, the Charleston chapter had huge success with their "Strawless Summer" campaign convincing more than 70 restaurants to go plastic straw free.
Many chapters are using straw campaigns to go a step further and recruit businesses for the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program. A straw campaign provides a great way to make contacts with local businesses, get them up to speed on the impacts of single-use plastics, and then convince them to take a more active role in their community by following the Ocean Friendly criteria.
The Surfrider network is energized and active in the fight to get rid of plastic straws and this should be the year that we never have to stay "no straw please" again!