Environment America and U.S. PIRG celebrate Skip the Straw Day by introducing bills in seven states to help Americans go strawless
CHICAGO -- Environment America and U.S. PIRG are working in seven states to introduce legislation requiring customers to request disposable plastic straws. The announcement comes on the third annual National Skip the Straw Day.
“Every day should be ‘Skip the Straw Day,’” said Steve Blackledge, senior conservation director for Environment America. “Nothing we use for five minutes should threaten our environment for hundreds of years.”
Two years ago, innovative students and their adviser at Whitehall Middle School in Michigan developed the idea of “Skip the Straw Day” to encourage consumers to forgo one of the most common forms of plastic pollution contaminating our waterways.
Every year, about eight million tons of plastic escape into the environment and eventually the ocean. Plastic does not biodegrade, so scientists have found fragments in hundreds of species, including 44 percent of seabird species, 43 percent of marine mammal species and every species of sea turtle. Ingesting these fragments is often fatal, because animals can starve when they ingest too much plastic they can’t digest.
With that in mind, Environment America launched its Wildlife Over Waste campaign in May 2018, targeting single-use plastic pollution. Just four months later, California became the first state to require sit-down restaurants to only disseminate plastic straws upon request. This year, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island have all introduced similar legislation.
“Reducing the number of plastic straws we use is one of the easiest ways to reduce plastic pollution,” said Alex Truelove, zero waste director for U.S. PIRG. “Every state legislator should be racing to her or his capital building to support bills that mitigate plastic pollution with minimal exceptions.”
In states without pending legislation, prominent institutions are supporting this effort. For example, Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium runs its own “Shedd the Straw” program.
“Reducing single-use plastic is a great way to create healthier habitats for vibrant aquatic wildlife in our rivers, lakes and oceans, helping to protect them from pollution,” said Andrea Densham, senior director of policy and advocacy at Shedd Aquarium. “For Skip the Straw Day, we encourage people to take the first step in reducing single-use plastic by passing on plastic straws if you are able and encourage ‘upon request’ legislation that replaces single-use plasticware with sustainable alternatives."
Plastic pollution, like waterways, pays no heed to state or international boundaries, nor respect to living things. The Whitehall Middle School students who started “Skip the Straw” day, and their adviser Susan Tate, realize that and hope their vision spreads in the coming years.
“My students were inspired to advocate for National Skip the Straw Day when they saw the viral video of the sea turtle with a straw in its nose,” said Tate. “They did some research and discovered that single-use plastic straws affect many marine animals, and even humans when the plastic breaks down into small pieces that are eaten by the fish we eat. We hope that Skip the Straw Day motivates people to break some of their single-use plastic habits.”
Tate offered some advice for how people can do that.
“Instead of using a straw when you dine out, just drink from the edge of your glass like you do at home. If you need a straw, consider one made out of paper or reusable metal, glass, or bamboo,” she suggested.
Environment America is the national federation of statewide, citizen-based advocacy organizations working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.
U.S. PIRG is the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups. PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organizations that stand up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.