The Last Plastic Straw is a volunteer community project for Save Our Shores. Read on about how it all started and what motivates the people behind the project. Go to our facebook page and share with all of us what inspired you to reduce or eliminate your plastic use!
The Sipping Point
by Jackie Nunez, the Last Plastic Straw founder
I had my “Last Plastic Straw moment” in 2011 after receiving a glass of water with a plastic straw at a local beach side bar in Santa Cruz, California.
I didn’t ask for a straw…
I had just arrived into town after traveling the Caribbean. While there, everywhere I went I saw plastic pollution. On the beaches, in the water, on land. Plastic pollution was everywhere, there was no getting away from it. There is no “away”.
If you have traveled at all within the last 10 years, you’ve experienced the scene repeatedly, and if you think it has gotten worse, you’re right. Studies show, with all the talk of ocean clean up, and recycling, the data proves the problem is growing exponentially. To stop plastic pollution it has to stop at the source. NOW.
80% of all marine debris found in the ocean is land based, and 80-90% of the marine debris is made from plastic.
It is daunting, and overwhelming seeing the amount of waste we in the US and the world generate. A big part of that waste is single use “disposable” plastic. Plastic is not a disposable material.
Being a resident of the US and knowing that a big source of plastic pollution stems from “home”, I feel an obligation to work on a solution.
The United States of America:
- Makes up 5% of the world’s population
- Consumes 30% of the world’s resources
- Creates 30% of the world’s waste
So I educated myself on plastic pollution through Save Our Shores Sanctuary Steward program, the movie Bag It, numerous online reports/talks addressing the plastic pollution problem, and attending marine biology talks, where ever and whenever I could.
Locally, I learned that in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties:
- We live above a protected Marine Sanctuary, which is so rich in biodiversity, that it is called the “Serengeti of the Sea” by Marine biologists
- Beach cleanups pick up 5,000 plastic straws annually from area beaches.
- Plastic straws make the top 10 list of litter items found during International Coastal Cleanup Day.
In the U.S., we use 500 million straws a day! That is enough straw waste to wrap the circumference of the earth 2.5 times or to fill Yankee Stadium over 9 times in a year! Now imagine that magnified by global consumption!
As a resident of Santa Cruz and as a inhabitant on this planet, I feel a responsibility to protect the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary, as everything we do on land literally flows down to the sea, and stays in the environment.
Part of the Solution
I started The Last Plastic Straw as a way to connect the individual in a positive, impactful, and tangible way towards a solution to the plastic pollution problem. By empowering and educating the public and private sectors on plastic pollution, and suggesting a simple act that can have a far reaching instantaneous effect on our planet.
The act of simply requesting “no straw” at bar’s and restaurants, and requesting that businesses only give out straws upon request. It would not only reduce the amount of plastic straws in our waste-stream overnight, it would be a positive in savings for businesses and municipalities. Additionally if a business were to replace the plastic straw with a fully compostable or reusable straw it would stop one big part of the stream of plastic pollution from the source.
The Problem with Plastic
- It does not biodegrade, it photo degrades into smaller and smaller pieces, which gets ingested by marine and land animals, and into our food chain.
- If it’s recycled, it is only a very small percentage that will actually make it to get recycled and it will be only once, then landfill and in our environment. Not ideal.
- Essentially every piece of plastic ever made is still in our environment, due to it’s chemical make up there is nothing in nature that can biodegrade plastic. Even if incinerated, we are breathing the toxic dioxins released into the air, and eating them as they settle into our crops and get bioaccumulated into animals and humans. It is found in mother’s breast milk and stored in fat.
Increasing the awareness of the wastefulness of plastic straws, has the potential to be a gateway issue for individuals to look at all the other needless single use plastic wastefulness in their lives.
What can you do right now?
Basically what we are asking you to do is DO LESS…less consumption, less waste, less straws, it’s a win, win! Check our Resources pages for plastic straw alternatives, inspirational reading and videos that will provide insight and solutions that you can incorporate into your life right now.
Join us, by spreading the word every time you ask for “no straw” where ever straws are served, and by requesting that restaurants & bars only serve straws upon request. Start living like you love the ocean, yourself, and the planet. You will help save the planet from single use plastic pollution one straw at a time. Little things do matter. Go to our facebook page and tell us about your “Last Plastic Straw Moment”…hopefully it’s today!