COLUMN: Mass production and use of plastic straw doesn't just bother our ocean neighbors — it's killing them

Sam Shriber

In the fourth grade, I had an almost unhealthy obsession with becoming a marine biologist.

Although my career goals have changed, a part of my heart still longs to be submerged in the water covering 70 percent of Earth’s surface.

My 10-year-old self insisted my future be one in which I befriended bottlenose dolphins and swam my days away with whales, sharks and manatees.

These aspirations, pushed back into the corner of my mind still holding onto childhood nostalgia, ensured my heart would be crushed after seeing a video where a sea turtle had to have a plastic straw removed from its nostril.

The 2015 video was published by turtle researchers from the Department of Oceanography at Texas A&M University, Nathan Robinson and doctoral student Christine Figgener, on their Youtube account, CostaRicanSeaTurtles.

The video was shared to raise awarenss for No Straw November.

No Straw November was started by the Junior Ocean Guardians and the Plastic Pollution Coalition, two environmental advocacy groups focused on reducing water pollution through service, fundraising and advocacy.

Plastic Pollution Coalition says an estimated 500 million plastic straws are used daily in the U.S.

After reading that, I became conscious every time I used a plastic straw and carelessly flung it into the trash bin. I had no idea where that single tube would end up or what animal it could possibly bother.

But straws do more than bother animals — straws hurt them. Straws agonize them. Straws murder them.

Looking back, I used a plastic straw every summer morning when I bought an iced cappuccino from Tim Hortons. The straws typically ended up floating on the floor of my car until eventually finding their way into a large cluster of plastics and wastes.

I used straws every time I bought a cherry blast Slurpee on a hot day and I know I use them every time I stumble into McDonald’s during a Friday night out with my friends.

They’re an item I never devoted too much thought to, but when I saw the video of the sea turtle I suddenly felt like a monster experiencing the ugliness of its own reflection for the first time.

The helpless turtle cried as the people in the video pulled the straw from its nose with a pair of pliers.

I imagined how it would feel if I were that sea turtle, having an invasive object limiting each breath I take, intolerably poking and prodding inside my head.

For this sea turtle and various animals living in Earth’s waters, this is a hazard they face everyday. The sea, their environment, should be a place of comfort and security.

Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., estimated plastic straws to be the fifth most frequently found item on beaches.

Straws contribute to the estimated 8.5 metric tons of plastic debris in oceans found annually.

After reading about this and seeing the video, I realized I can help reduce this devastation simply by requesting “no straw” after purchasing beverages or contacting local eateries to try and get them to adopt an “only serve straws upon request” protocol during November.

I’ve began drinking water strictly from reusable water bottles to reduce plastic waste, but now I realize this is only the beginning of my battle against plastic pollution.

Times are controversial and conflicts are appearing around every corner on social media, the classroom and throughout the nation. Topics regarding race, firearms, sexuality and aggression fill the headlines, booming like thunder demanding our attention.

With such seemingly endless issues facing us, it becomes discouraging and hard to see the small issues we can have a positive impact on.

We need to see that a better world is unattainable if we are incapable of taking time to care for our planet.

No Straw November is our opportunity to drop the straws and make one sea turtle’s life a little brighter.


About Samantha Shriber

Samantha Shriber is a staff reporter at Central Michigan Life and is a Saint Clair Shores ...

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