Straws have become the poster child single-use item—and their days are numbered. This January, Washington D.C. became the second city in the United States to ban plastic straws.
In 2014, Ocean Conservancy launched its Skip the Straw Campaign, with tens of thousands of individuals pledging to request their beverages without straws. In the last few years alone, thousands of restaurants across the country have also decided to go strawless or to use sustainable alternatives. Other straw victories include Starbucks’ announcement to phase out straws, the European Union’s agreement to ban straws and other single-use items and coalitions popping up across the globe to combat straws in their communities—take a look at these student groups taking action in Yogyakarta, Indonesia and North Carolina, United States.
Many restaurants in D.C. had already been going straw-free as a result of Our Last Straw, a coalition of restaurants, bars, non-profits and others pushing for a straw ban in the district. Restaurants, bars and cafes now have six-months to phase out straws before enforcement begins in July 2019.
The straw ban is part of a larger citywide goal to reduce waste by 80% by 2032. Last year, Mayor Bowser implemented the Year of the Anacostia, a campaign to reduce waste entering the river, by cracking down on illegal dumping, encouraging stewardship and education, installing trash traps and improving trash reduction efforts in city limits. In the last two years, Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup event on the Anacostia has picked up 9,000 pounds of debris on just two miles of the waterway. The straw ban fits in to an existing suite of other food service requirements, including a guarantee of recyclability for all products and a foam ban that were first instituted in 2016. Achieving progressive foodservice legislation and enforcement with city-wide support wasn’t easy, but a collective goal to curb the some 400,000 pounds of trash entering the Anacostia each year made it achievable. Zach Rybarczyk, who works at the district’s Department of Energy & Environment on this issue, explained that it took the collaboration of a multitude of government agencies, non-profits, businesses and disability groups to bring the policy to life.
Join the movement! Commit to skipping the straw and add your voice to the sea of people taking a stand for the ocean. Sign the pledge now and remember to order your drink without a straw. It is a small step that goes a long way for ocean health. Take the pledge today.