THE LAST STRAW

Written By: Maggie McManus

An update on the #StoptheStraw campaign.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen large companies and even major cities ban plastic straws in an attempt to save our oceans. While straws make up only .025% of plastic pollution in oceans, they are a smart and simple place to start cutting down on plastic-use. Plastic straws are single-use products that are sometimes only used for a matter of minutes, but they can take up to 200 years to break down in the ocean, which is where most of them end up. Because of the detrimental effects plastic straws have on the environment and how non-essential they are, companies, cities, and individuals all over the world have sworn off plastic straws.

On a local level, Nantucket has taken many steps to join this national movement over the last year and a half. In February of 2018, Nantucket launched the Stop the Straw campaign in an effort to limit single-use plastic pollution and reduce the 3 million plastic straws that are used here in July and August alone. Instead of banning the use of plastic straws across the island, the campaign encourages restaurants and vendors to sign the pledge to replace plastic straws and cocktail stirrers with compostable or reusable alternatives. They also pledge to only provide these alternatives when guests request a straw or stirrer, and display a sticker to customers to share information about the campaign. At least 29 establishments have joined the movement to pledge to eliminate plastic straws, and more are joining the cause every day.

Feedback from restaurants about the switch to paper straws has been generally positive. The main complaint from customers is that paper straws fall apart or disintegrate while in the beverage. This isn’t an issue for all restaurants, though. LoLa Burger has good quality paper straws that don’t disintegrate quickly, so they receive fewer complaints from customers. They say that their only issue is with milkshakes, with which they need to give customers 2 or 3 straws to finish the drink.

Some people, especially those who are visiting the island, don’t understand why paper straws are taking over. An employee at the Hungry Minnow, though, said that once they explain that the switch to paper straws is to protect marine life, customers come to accept the change and sometimes even opt out of using a paper straw because they realize that it isn’t necessary. Hungry Minnow is also planning on offering Pyrex straws for customers to buy later this summer.

While paper straws are much better for the environment, they don’t come without a cost. Paper straws cost around 2.5 cents, while plastic straws only cost a half-cent. This may seem like a small difference, but these numbers can add up quickly, especially if restaurants need to give customers more than one straw for each drink because they disintegrate. While this can definitely pose a problem for restaurants to make the switch, the benefits that reducing single-use plastic has on our oceans make the added cost worth it.

Overall, since the introduction of the Stop the Straw campaign, Nantucket has seen a drastic reduction in plastic straw usage, and thus kept thousands of single-use plastics out of our surrounding oceans. What’s more, the energy behind the movement has been so successful that the town has voted to ban certain single-use plastics altogether by 2020, including drinking cups and single-use plastic water bottles. We can only hope that by 2021, Nantucket might actually make the last straw a thing of the past.

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