There’s a new local movement that popped up this week to allow folks to help play their part to cut down on the plastic straw population here in our part of the Lowcountry.
Launched this week, volunteers from several local organizations including the Coastal Conservation League, Friends of Hunting Island, Beaufort Conservation District and the Indivisible Beaufort Environment Team have all teamed up with the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program to create awareness and introduced the ‘Skip the Straw’ campaign in the Beaufort area.
Volunteers are asking local restaurants to voluntarily stop handing out plastic straws and stirrers with drinks that are ordered, and only hand them out when asked by patrons.
After the first day, several have committed to the conservation program. “Saltus, Breakwater, Boondocks, Common Ground Coffeehouse, Hearth Wood Fired Pizza, YoYo’s, Rain N Bagel Company and Wren Bistro have all committed to no longer automatically handing out plastic straws,” said local Skip the Straw volunteer Janie Lackman.
Beaufort has already enacted a ban on plastic bags which goes into effect in most areas on October 14th. However, this is voluntary and not a ban.
According to the Ocean Conservancy, a Washington, D.C. non-profit group, Americans use approximately 500 million plastic straw each day and the organization’s yearly International Coastal Cleanup has already picked up over 10 million straws from beaches and waterways throughout the U.S.
The straws, along with other trash items, pose a real danger to sea turtles, albatross, fish and other marine wildlife. Some studies concluded that An estimated 71% of seabirds and 30% of turtles have been found with plastics in their stomachs. When they ingest plastic, marine life has a 50% mortality rate.
According to the Conservancy, restaurants, bars and cafes can take the lead in this by stopping handing out straws with drinks, preventing millions of straws and stirrers from entering our oceans.
Recently, New York City has joined in a small but growing list of communities considering a straw ban to lighten the load on landfills and protect marine life. California and Hawaii are pondering statewide action to regulate distribution of plastic straws, but most of the efforts on the issue have taken place at the local level, with more than a dozen cities and towns banning or limiting distribution.
Volunteers believe the anti-straw push can advance more rapidly across the country or even in coastal communities because, while some people view plastic bags as something of a necessity, straws are generally viewed as a small indulgence that consumers can do without.
”Straws are something anyone can give up easily without having it affect their lifestyle,” said Diana Lofflin, founder of StrawFree.org. “It’s a small step anyone can take to make a global impact.”
Some companies in other areas are touting bamboo and wood straws as longer-lasting alternatives, though paper remains the standard second option.
Locally, Grayco Hardware & Home on Lady’s Island sells a selection of metal and plastic BPA free straws and for several years the folks at The Upper Crust on Lady’s Island have been offering patrons a really cool ‘pasta straw’ that is about 10 inches long….made out of pasta.
For more information on the project visit the Ocean Conservancy here.
To sign up your Beaufort-area restaurant, cafe or establishment for the program and to get stickers to display to patrons, contact Rikki Parker at email@example.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org