Surfrider’s strawless challenge: no single use plastic straws

Plastic items littering Ventura beaches must go.

Sustainability Now News
by Maryann Ridini Spencer

This year on Earth Day (April 22), Surfrider launched Ventura’s Plastic Free Beaches campaign as a proactive response to the increasing amounts of plastic straws, expanded polystyrene foam (aka Styrofoam), and other plastic items littering Ventura beaches.

With that ongoing mission to reduce plastics in mind, in June Surfrider announced “The Strawless Challenge,” targeted at reducing the amount of single-use plastic in the ocean. The challenge, which runs through Labor Day, requires that local restaurants abstain from providing drinking straws unless customers specifically request them.

The timing of the challenge comes on the heels of AB-1884, a proposed straws upon request law for restaurants that is aimed at plastic pollution prevention, which was approved by the Assembly in May, and is now being considered by the state Senate.

“The Strawless Challenge is a great opportunity to raise awareness about single-use plastic and its impact on marine life,” said Bill Hickman, Southern California Regional Manager, Surfrider. “Scientists estimate that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean unless we start to act now. The current amount of plastics in our waterways is a serious matter. In 2017, Ventura Surfrider found over 2550 plastic straws on the Downtown Promenade area alone.”

“The major problem with plastics is that they’re not biodegradable in our lifetime,” continued Hickman. “So, when they break up into smaller pieces, marine and wildlife can mistake them for food. After these toxins are ingested, they wind up working their way up the food chain, and that’s harmful not only to other marine life but you and me.”

“The statistics for plastics in the ocean is staggering,” said Hickman. “The 1980s were a time when scientists first identified a global plastic crisis after discovering that marine life was ingesting and getting entangled in this plastic.

“Then, in the late 1990’s, Captain Charles Moore brought to light a huge garbage patch in an area of the Pacific Ocean strewn with plastic debris that was claimed to be twice the size of Texas. This finding led to more research and discoveries that all five ocean gyres (Indian Ocean, North Atlantic, North Pacific, South Atlantic, and South Pacific) are collecting massive amounts of plastic pollution.”

An avid surfer, Hickman began to volunteer for Surfrider after he read a 2003 National Geographic article about the discovery of 200 plastic pieces in an albatross’ stomach.

“That article hit home for me,” said Hickman who eventually took a full-time position with the non-profit. “I realized marine life doesn’t have a voice, and they need our help.”

To get restaurants on board, Surfrider has volunteers making the rounds to local restaurants to share more details about the program. As an alternative to plastic straws, Surfrider is advocating offering such options as glass, straw, stainless steel, and bamboo. Participating restaurants are promoted and listed in a special section on Surfrider’s website.

“Another main goal with the challenge is to gather information that Surfrider will be able to include in a case study to present to the Ventura City Council,” continued Hickman. Many cities have bans on plastic, and we’re hoping the information we can provide will help support Ventura’s plastic reduction ordinance.”

Visit: ventura.surfrider.org/plasticfreebeaches.

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