Nearly 800,000 volunteers partnered with the Ocean Conservatory in 2017 to remove more than 20 million pieces of trash from beaches and waterways throughout the world.1 This may seem like a lot, however the amount of marine debris, specifically the concentration of plastic pollution, is growing at alarming rates.
According to the United Nations, at least 800 species globally are affected by marine debris, and as much as 80 percent of that litter is plastic. In the case of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, the accumulation of microplastics is 4-16 times greater than previously thought. Ninety percent of seabirds have traces of plastic trash in their systems and scientists have found microplastics in 114 aquatic species, with more than half of those animals ending up on our dinner plates. And with over 300 million tons of plastics produced every year, it does not look to be slowing down.2
One culprit of the microplastic debris found in the ocean is plastic straws. Due to the size of straws, recycling machines cannot break them into smaller pieces. Hence, they have made their way to the deepest trenches of our oceans and animals are ingesting, choking, and/or starving as a result. These tiny pieces of plastic are adding up and are packing a powerful punch on the environment.
There has been action to try to reverse these staggering effects of our plastic straw intake. In 2018, Starbucks announced that they will eliminate plastic straws by 2020.3 Although met with mixed reviews, it helped bring awareness to the issue. Our Last Straw is a coalition of restaurants, bars, cafes, hotels, event venues, and organizations on a mission: eliminate single-use plastic straws. With well over 40 partners, including some large restaurant chains, they are gaining steam.4 It is organizations like these that are helping to spread awareness and take action that will hopefully help to reverse the damage we have made and set new best practices in these industries.
At CCM, we look to practice what we have preach and thus have stopped using plastic straws in our offices and recently purchased our latest conference give away – a portable stainless steel straw set.