It’s a Strawless Summer

Your skin is salty from a long day at the beach as you hear subtle reggae music playing in the background. You gaze off into the horizon at the sunset, you take a sip from a straw placed in your cold drink. Sounds like a typical relaxing evening on Fire Island, but did you ever stop to think in that blissful moment where that straw might end up? Years from now as you watch another sun go down that very straw can still be floating in the ocean, causing harm along the way.

Few people realize that these small plastic straws are among the top 10 items found during beach cleanups. These straws cover our beaches and are harmful to seabirds, turtles and other marine creatures as they can be mistaken for food, and have become a death trap for all types of marine life. According to Strawless Ocean Study, an estimated 71 percent of seabirds and 30 percent of turtles have plastics in their stomachs, with straws a prominent component.

According to additional studies plastic straws are rarely recycled. Being light in weight they drop through recycling sorting screens and often mix with other materials, contaminating recycling loads or getting disposed of as garbage – this is if they actually make it to the recycling process at all. Reasons these straws end up in the ocean include being left behind on beaches in coastal communities or they are blown out of overfilled trashcans, transport boats, vehicles, etc. This is a condition affecting resorts globally, including Fire Island.

Awareness to the crisis has become a hot topic of conversation lately. Foundations like the Surfrider Foundation and For a Strawless Ocean have been discussing the flawed straw recycling process and trying to get everyone on board for a “strawless summer.” The coastal town of Charleston, South Carolina, has gotten more than 70 restaurants agreeing to get rid of plastic straws with the Strawless Summer Campaign. Now this reporter has decided it is her job to raise awareness on Fire Island as well, and to start with local restaurants.

It is understandable to want a straw in your rocket fuel or drink this summer, so here are some creative plastic straw alternatives:

• Bamboo drinking straws

• Biodegradable straws

• Steel straws

• Metal straws

• No straw at all

Such alternatives are readily available and on the market today.

Plastic straws may have a significant impact on the sea, but so can humankind by changing our little habits that can impact the planet in huge ways. So let’s start making every summer a strawless summer!