Eliminate Straws at Cal Lutheran

Have you ever seen the video of the turtle with the straw stuck up its nose?

“No, don’t show me.”

“I don’t want to talk about it!”

“That video made me cry.”

Well I have, and most of you probably cringed if you knew what I was talking about.

Every year 19 billion pounds of plastic end up in the oceans, according to a study by Science Magazine. We need to talk about it.

Straws are not the major source of pollution. However, as National Geographic puts it, “Small and lightweight, straws often never make it into recycling bins.”

Juliana Vitagliano, a senior Environmental Science major and president of Oceans Outreach club said that we are basically trashing the ocean.

There’s a name for this trash in the ocean. It’s called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and it contains nearly 800 million tons of microplastics.

Not relatable enough? That’s about the size of continental Europe, or twice the size of Texas.

The problem with plastic is that it never really goes away. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that the first piece of plastic to ever exist is still intact today. Due to ways of waste disposal gone wrong or offshore platforms this plastic remains in marine habitats.

The plastic breaks down into tiny microplastics, which have built up in the oceans. These microplastics are extremely harmful to ecosystems-even ending up in the guts of one in four fish from the United States, a study on nature.com found. When plastic ends up in the guts of fish, you bet when we eat fish that plastic is going to end up in our systems as well.

So how do plastic straws fit into this?

The problem with straws is that their shape makes them dangerous to marine life. If the video of the marine biologists pulling a straw out of the nose of a Costa Rican turtle wasn’t enough to tip the scales against straw usage, think about the dozens of smaller marine species at risk. Also think about these straws breaking down into the microplastics consumed by the fish we eat. We end up consuming this plastic second hand. Make it personal.

“We’re trying to get kids that are interested in the ocean, like people who go surfing or go to the beach, just to actually go through and look at the science side of it and see how they could change their behaviors to help the ocean a little bit more,” Vitagliano said.

Eliminating plastic straws is the perfect first step California Lutheran University can take toward creating less waste for a few reasons. First, straws are not a necessity.

It is completely possible to drink a soda from Ullman, or iced coffee from Starbucks without a straw. Ullman even offers a discount on your drink when you bring your own cup, Vitagliano said.

Even smoothies from Jamba Juice can be consumed without a straw, but reusable straws (bamboo or stainless steel are both great options) are an easy alternative if that seems like too much of a stretch.

Second, straws should be an easy plastic product to reduce, and eventually eliminate.

“What sets the anti-straw campaign apart from other efforts—and why the anti-straw campaign may succeed—is that activists are not seeking to change laws or regulations. They are merely asking consumers to change their habits and say no to straws,” said Laura Parker for National Geographic.

Lastly, cutting back on straws will save money. When the demand for plastic goes down, the supply will follow.
Eliminating plastic straws is a small change we can make now that will open the door to a more environmentally friendly campus. Next time you order an iced coffee at Starbucks, opt to go strawless when they hand you that cup, or even better, bring your own.  Your choice could save a sea turtle, and eventually the planet.

Here is the link to the video of the turtle getting the straw out of its nose:

Natalie Elliott