By Daisy Whittemore, Farmers Restaurant Group / Our Last Straw
For this year’s Plastic Free Challenge, we’re making an effort to elevate the work of our Plastic Free partners around the DMV. Today we hear from the nonprofit Our Last Straw.
As you finish up your first week of the Plastic Free Challenge, you have likely begun to hatch your own alternatives-to-plastics plan. Wherever you are on the spectrum—whether you are eliminating plastics entirely this month, limiting them as much as you can, or even if you haven’t eliminated them at all yet—please consider eliminating plastic straws.
Not using plastic straws may seem like a small gesture, but it has major environmental impact. Plastic straw education and elimination is an effective strategy to raise awareness about the dangers of single-use plastics and to influence legislators to begin to regulate single-use plastics.
In 2018 Dan Simons and Farmers Restaurant Group launched Our Last Straw to eliminate the use and distribution of plastic straws and other single-use plastic across the hospitality industry. DC has now officially banned plastic straws and begun to fine businesses that use them. Our Last Straw is continuing to build a coalition of businesses across the DMV and beyond dedicated to reducing our reliance on plastics.
Please join the efforts of Our Last Straw as part of your 2019 Plastic Free Challenge. Plastic straws are the perfect foundation on which to build a framework for advocacy and regulation—local, national, and global—to curb our reliance on single-use plastics. Together, we can create a more environmentally conscious population and save our lands and waterways.
Step 1: Make a Personal Pledge to #StopSucking
- Go to www.OurLastStraw.org and make the pledge to #stopsucking.
- Stop using and purchasing plastic straws.
- Always say “hold the straw” when ordering in restaurants and bars.
- Support and encourage businesses that don’t use plastic straws.
- To find restaurants that don’t distribute plastic straws, see the list of Our Last Straw partners at https://www.ourlaststraw.org/partners
Step 2: Encourage Your Favorite Restaurants to #StopSucking
Lead the charge for change by encouraging your favorite restaurants, bars, cafes, hotels, and event venues to stop serving plastic straws. Ask them to join the Our Last Straw coalition: https://www.ourlaststraw.org/takeactionbusiness. Our Last Straw provides support to businesses finding affordable alternatives to plastic straws.
When talking with restaurants, please note that compostable plastic straws are NOT the answer. “Compostable” plastic straws, which can be made from corn or potato starch and other ingredients, require an industrial composting facility. They do not biodegrade in trash bins or even home composts. Most compostable straws (and other “compostable” plastics) end up in regular trash bins, bound for landfills, or littering our streets and parks, bound for our waterways, where they act like regular plastics.
Step 3: Be a Leader and Advocate
- Influence everyone you know to stop using plastic straws.
- Educate your friends and your community about the environmental and health hazards of plastic straws and other single-use plastics.
- Contact your local and state lawmakers advocating for legislation banning plastic straws and other single-use plastics.
Step 4: Continue to Learn the Facts about Plastics
Plastic drinking straws are among the top 10 contributors to marine debris pollution.
- Contrary to popular assumptions, only 9% of plastics are recycled, and it has remained at 9% since 2012 in spite of increased recycling efforts and education.
- Approximately 8.8 million tons of plastic pollution flows into the oceans each year, an amount expected to double by 2025.
- The rate of plastics production growth has increased 620% since 1975, and nearly half of the plastic produced is single-use.
- Plastics do not biodegrade but break down into smaller pieces of microplastic.
Plastics can be found in every marine habitat on Earth, from polar ice to the deepest trenches of the ocean. By 2050, plastic trash will outweigh fish and virtually every seabird species on the planet will be eating plastic.
- Research shows that microplastics are in our drinking water, our food supply, and our bodies.
- Exposure to the chemicals in plastics has been linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption, and other ailments.
- Continued research is needed to fully understand these health impacts, including investigations into the cumulative effects of the chemicals in plastics on the human body, and in our food supply chain.