By Mollee Ryan
Freshman Music Therapy Major, Opinion Editor
Have you ever seen the video floating around social media of the sea turtle crying in pain as rescuers wrenched a plastic straw from his nose?
“Skip the Straw,” an ocean conservancy campaign founded by Janis Searles Jones earlier this year, was an almost immediate response to this event.
When the video of the struggling animal surfaced in the beginning of 2018, many were crushed. Nobody likes to see an animal hurting with no way to help itself. Hundreds, thousands of people jumped on board to help sea life and oceans in any way possible. That’s when “Skip the Straw” came into the picture.
“The ocean has played a major role in my life since I was a kid… What happens to the ocean impacts all of us,” Jones, the CEO of the ocean conservancy, said according to their website.
Plastic straws have been cited as one of the top ten contributors to ocean pollution. As they are small and weightless, straws are often littered or fall out of trashbags. According to the National Park Service, Americans use almost 500 million plastic straws per day. Think about that: if we use 500 million plastic straws per day, almost half of those straws are not making it to the proper method of disposal, making it that 250 million straws per day polluting our environment. And unfortunately, one-time use plastic straws are not able to be recycled.
What “Skip the Straw” has done is exactly what the title says, skip the straw. Restaurants, grocery stores and food places around the entire country have taken part in the phenomena, removing plastic straws from their daily routine and service.
Not long after the campaign launched, Cleveland State University decided to jump on the bandwagon as well. All plastic straws that were available for use were stripped from the Viking Marketplace, Fenn Shoppe, Viking Grounds and Business Perks. Customers only receive a plastic straw automatically when ordering a frozen drink or smoothie.
Although, this isn’t Cleveland State’s first attempt to “reduce unnecessary waste.” Earlier in 2018, the university replaced plastic tableware with 100 percent bio-based and compostable tableware, able to be reused, and not meant to be thrown away. With reusable tableware, the school prevents the possibility of plastics not making it to the recycle bin or the trash.
“I think it’s great. Personally, I prefer metal silverware, and I never use a plastic straw when I go out to eat. I was wondering when restaurants would finally hop on with me,” Emily Hetrick, a freshman theatre major said.
Students all over campus have been elated with the innovative changes the school has made, abuzz about it since the straws magically disappeared. However, there are some disadvantages to plasticware being replaced.
With the arrival of reusable tableware comes more dishes to be washed, thus creating more work for dining services employees. Also, plastic straws are still available for use upon request, so whenever a student would like to use a plastic straw for whatever reason, they must find a dining services employee to fetch them one. A whole process has to ensue for both the student and the employee, which seems to be more of a hindrance than a convenience.
Personally, I think Cleveland State hopping on the “Skip the Straw” bandwagon is a wonderful thing. Conserving our bodies of water and sea life is important anywhere, but if you can actually see the impact it has on the environment, that’s a whole different story.
When I was about 12 years old, my aunt and uncle offered to take my little brother and I fishing at the pier, which was not even two miles away from my house. Of course, I had never even been that close to the water before, let alone fishing. I was thrilled.
I don’t think I will ever forget what I felt when I stepped onto the pier that hot, sunny day.
I remember looking out at the lake, and having never been so close to it, I was amazed, thrilled. It was breathtaking and so vast and so mesmerizing. I remember seeing the seagulls diving in and out of the water and even some little fish bouncing above the soft waves, mocking the concentrated fishermen. I fell in love with what I saw.
But I also remember, even then through the astounding beauty of the lake, I found the water to be an ugly, dirty-looking grayish color. I saw old candy wrappers, cigarette butts and even some broken beer bottles floating in the water, right above the buzzing schools of fish.
Around me on the pier was the same thing: old McDonalds bags and large 44 oz. Speedway cups still filled halfway with soda. The condition that the pier and the lake before me was left in disgusted me. And I vowed on that day, when I was 12 years old, that I would never lower myself enough to pollute such an area that could be so nice and beautiful, bustling with wildlife.
Today, that same pier is closed down due to pollution of the water and the breakage of the cement from fierce waves.
“Skip the Straw” takes millions of volunteers from around the world, varying in all ages, to participate in the annual International Coastal Cleanup, a movement that’s been happening for the past 30 years.
“I participate every year, and now I’m the one teaching my daughter about the impacts of plastic on the ocean and all the amazing animals in it, and how she can make a difference,” Jones said.
So, if you make the decision to use a plastic straw, or plasticware in general, instead of being negligent about the wellbeing of our bodies of water and the wildlife that lives in it, please be sure to dispose of your utensils properly and with care. An animal’s life and safety could depend on your decision.
And maybe you won’t ruin the experience of a beautiful, unpolluted lake to a 12-year-old who has never seen a vast body of water before.