Over 40 local restaurants took the “Strawless Summer” challenge this year — joining a worldwide effort to move away from plastic straws, a beverage amenity that has proven disastrous for marine life and seemingly one of the most easily discarded single-use plastic items.
Last week, East Hampton Village became the first local municipality to take the concept of “Strawless Summer” a step further, adopting new legislation that prohibits single-use plastic straws in its village, allowing businesses to keep only a small quantity on hand for those who request it —a measure considered with the recognition of those with disabilities who need straws to drink a beverage.
The village was one of the first on Long Island in 2011 to ban single-use plastic bags, a movement that began in Southampton Village and quickly spread to other municipalities, including Sag Harbor Village, before Suffolk County enacted its own effort to reduce waste further by requiring businesses to charge $0.05 for any non-reusable bag, paper or heavy plastic, both of which are still allowed under most laws.
East Hampton is certainly not the first municipality to adopt a ban on plastic straws — in July, Seattle became the first major city in the United States to ban both single-use plastic straws and utensils. Beginning in 2019, residents of California will have to ask servers for a straw in order to get one — an effort by state leaders to reduce the overall use of plastic straws. Governments are not the only ones hopping on the bandwagon — Starbucks has said it will eliminate plastic straws by 2020. The Walt Disney Company has also said it will cease offering both single-use straws and plastic stirrers at all of its properties by mid-2019, which, according to a news release from the company, will take 175 million straws and stirrers out of circulation every year.
The Surfrider Foundation’s Eastern Long Island chapter said it removed 922 straws from a beach in Greenport during a single beach cleanup. Take a short walk on any of our beaches — considered some of the most beautiful in the world — and a bucket full of plastic can be collected in a matter of minutes. Will banning plastic straws alone end that? Of course not. Will it make a difference? Yes. And not just in terms of taking some of the more popular — and traditionally unrecycled — single-use plastics out of circulation, but also in changing behavior overall. It will be individual and business decisions to remove single-use plastic from daily life that will ultimately help turn the tide in what is currently a losing battle for our environment, and especially for our marine life.