A group in Cornwall has proposed banning the use of plastic straws in bars to help reduce the effects of Britain's woeful ocean pollution problem.
UK beaches and the waters surrounding the country are now crammed with plastic both dumped and washed offshore gradually, while studies in recent times have revealed a huge amount of plastic affecting marine life and possibly entering the food chain.
Though seemingly harmless, straws have been known to cause animals harm and great distress, as evidenced by this video below.
A new campaign, Final Straw Cornwall, is now aiming to remove plastic straws from bars across the county. The aptly named James Strawbridge, chef, owner of Posh Pasty Company, sustainable living expert, and ambassador for the campaign said: "The Final Straw is aiming for just that. No more plastic straws being used in Cornwall. They spoil our beaches and kill our wildlife. Every straw on the planet right now will outlive everyone reading these words. Cornwall is where that stops."
ITV recently reported that 8.5bn straws are used in the UK every year. With many of those insufficiently disposed, many will end up in the oceans, leading to problems such as those above.
Louise Edge, Senior Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace UK, told LADbible: "We have made a fundamental error in our choice of materials for single-use disposable items like straws, bottles and packaging. Plastic waste is entering our oceans at a rate of up to 12 million tonnes a year, it lasts for hundreds of years, and rather than degrading it merely breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces which can then enter the food chain.
"We have plenty of horrifying images of what happens to animals like seagulls, turtles and whales when they eat large pieces of plastic, but very little research on the impacts of the plastic dust that is spreading through our ecosystems.
"Whether we can ever clean up the mess we've already made is debatable, but what we can and should do is stop adding to it. That means we need to improve our recycling rates, but also switch to re-useable alternatives to disposable items like plastic straws, and to better materials for the disposable items we do use."
Reusable Straws. Credit: Final Straw
James Neale, who co-founded the campaign, told LADbible: "The Final Straw Cornwall is an environmental campaign that plans to make Cornwall the first single-use plastic straw-free county in the UK. We're urging pubs, restaurants, hotels and cafes across the county to stop serving single-use plastic straws, and also encouraging the general public to hand straws back if they are served them...
"Everything we dispose of ultimately ends up somewhere - you only have to look at social media channels to see the terrible damage we are causing to our planet. In truth, it can be really overwhelming and difficult to know how best to make a difference and do more to protect our planet...
"Going without plastic straws is an easy place to begin. Making Cornwall single-use plastic straw free is a big message to the rest of the world that this is important and things can change. If you love where you live, you can take action to protect it. Cornwall could be the first in a long line of nationwide and international dominoes that will mark the beginning of a steep change in attitude towards straws and single-use plastics.
Final Straw hopes to encourage bars to stop serving plastic straws. Credit: Final Straw
"Hopefully, something as simple as refusing single-use straws will encourage people to consider their usage of other single-use plastics, such as bottled water, packaging, coffee cups, plastic bags and so on. Eventually, this should stem the tide of the constant stream of plastic items we use then casually throw away."
The prevalence of single-use straws in the UK continues to be of huge concern, but chains such as Wetherspoon are phasing them out, as The Independent reported earlier this year. In the US - where around 500 million straws are purportedly used daily - a number of groups, including the Last Straw, are also campaigning to see an end to single-use straw.
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Words: Ronan O'Shea