In the United States, we use 500 million plastic straws in a SINGLE day. Straws are not recyclable and, even if they are thrown away properly, many still eventually find their way into waterways, where they can harm wildlife. The plastic straws that wind up on beaches and in our rivers and oceans take a long time to break down and eventually become microplastics. So what can we do to make a difference? Before your server gives you a straw say, “No straw please.” Once the straw makes it to your table at a restaurant (even those that are wrapped), it cannot be reused and will be thrown away, whether you use it or not! Luckily, some restaurants are moving to paper straws or are only providing straws upon customer request.
You can also purchase and use metal or even paper straws, and instead of buying individually packaged juice boxes for your kiddos, buy juice in bulk and pour it into a reusable bottle (this is also more economical!).
And finally, become an advocate! Talk to your favorite restaurants about the environmental impact of plastic. Acknowledge those restaurants and businesses that are already making strides to reduce their impact on the environment by either going to paper straws or by only providing straws at the request of the customer. Use the hashtags #stopsucking and #noplasticstraws to raise awareness in your social media posts anytime you are making a difference!
If you are planning to #skipthestraw, Earth Day is the perfect time to invite your favorite restaurants to join you. Ask them to provide straws only upon request this Earth Day, April 22. You can find a toolkit of resources, and Virginia Beach restaurants can get flyers, table cards or even some paper straws to try (for customers who request them) at Keep It Beachy Clean. You can also check out their list of participating restaurants where you can have a straw-free drink on Earth Day.
Christel Dyer is a Senior Plant Manager at HRSD, the organization that collects and treats wastewater across Hampton Roads. She is one of the nearly 800 employees that play a part in fulfilling HRSD’s vision that future generations will inherit clean waterways and be able to keep them clean.