20 Apr 2018 Story Oceans & seas

Strawless in Seattle: How a major coastal city is tackling marine litter

In July 2018, customers in Seattle – the largest city in the State of Washington, along the United States’ Pacific Coast – will have to ask for a marine-degradable  paper straw with their drink, or decide to go strawless.

While it’s a small change, it will have a big impact on the ocean. The so-called Emerald City had already banned single-use plastic utensils and grocery bags, but last year the city announced that it would ban single-use non compostable plastic straws starting from July.

The move was then amplified by the support of “Strawless in Seattle,” a citywide takeover campaign produced by Lonely Whale, the non-profit co-founded by UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador Adrian Grenier.

Cup with plastic straw
As of July 2018, plastic straws will be banned in Seattle. (Pixabay)

The campaign, which launched in September 2017, encouraged leading Seattle businesses and cultural icons to commit to incorporating marine degradable alternatives to single-use plastic straws. The campaign garnered tremendous support from the public, celebrities and over 150 restaurants that volunteered to get rid of straws ahead of the ban. During the one-month campaign, over 2.3 million single-use plastic straws were removed from the city.

Out of the many sources of marine litter, plastic straws - which are normally used for only a few minutes before being discarded - are one of the items most commonly found during beach cleanups. It’s estimated that Americans alone use an estimated 500 million single-use plastic straws every day, many of which end up in the ocean, where they break down into tiny micro-plastics that poison the environment, sea life, and ultimately end up back on our plates.

An estimated 71 per cent of seabirds and 30 per cent of turtles have been found with plastic in their stomachs. Marine animals that have ingested plastic have a mortality rate of 50 per cent.

A number of other U.S. coastal cities - including Malibu, California and Miami Beach, Florida - have recently announced similar bans.

Access the Lonely Whale’s Guidebook For A Strawless Ocean.

#BeatPlasticPollution is the theme of World Environment Day 2018. Join the movement to break up with single-use plastic.