Skip the Straw — Today, and Every Day

A picture of a Eurasion Coot sitting on a nest that includes plastic trash such as straws, for an LCA post on Skip the Straw Day.

Can you guess the item that routinely makes the “Top Ten” most-collected items list during the Ocean Conservancy’s yearly International Coastal Cleanup?

If you had breakfast, lunch or dinner at a restaurant today, you probably saw or used one: the plastic straw/stirrer.

And over the last 35 years, costal cleanup volunteers have collected nearly 14 million plastic straws from the world’s beaches.

That’s why, in 2017, a group of high-school students from Michigan who called themselves the Coral Keepers came up with “National Skip the Straw Day,” which occurs every fourth Friday in February (this year, it’s Feb. 24).

The Plastic Predicament

The problem with plastic straws (and other single-use plastics) is that they look like lunch — or get mixed in with it — to an entire host of aquatic animals. Turtles in particular have disastrous run-ins with plastic pollution. In 2017, a video of scientists removing a straw from an olive ridley sea turtle’s nose went viral, inspiring a new wave of calls for plastic straw bans.

It takes a single plastic straw about 200 years to break down. That means plastic straws from the 1960s are still around somewhere causing problems. They get stuck in the intestinal tracts, air passages and blowholes of marine life that try to eat them. When heated, these straws give off toxic byproducts. And even when they do break down, it’s only into smaller toxic plastic particles called microplastics that can be found just about everywhere, including water supplies. That’s why Skip the Straw Day is so important.

Take Action

What can you do to help?

Te easiest thing to do, of course, is to skip the plastic straw altogether. It’s not hard to just tip back your glass and drink from it, just like its inventors intended.

But there are plenty of safer alternatives to plastic, too, including biodegradable paper straws. A number of communities and states have even enacted or proposed bans of single-use plastics such as straws.

But the plastics industry is actively lobbying lawmakers to outlaw bans — and in some places, they’re successfully rolling back progress.

Here are three things you can do right now:

  • Skip the straw, tip the glass

The message is in the name. The next time you order food, ask them to skip the straw. Stuck on straws? Purchase an eco-friendly alternative instead, such as reusable metal straws, or biodegradable paper straws.

  • Push for a plastic straw ban

Some municipalities have banned plastic straws (and bags) altogether. Write an email (or snail mail) to your local elected officials, or start a petition in your community.

  • Schedule a trash cleanup

Lead a group of volunteers to clean up trash around one of our many local waterways, recreation areas, or roads. Straws aren’t the only problem, and every little bit helps.

Let us know what you’re doing to honor Skip The Straw day in the comments on our social media pages — we’d love to hear from you!