Each day, Boulderites throw out approximately 175,000 single-use, plastic straws.
That number comes from the local, grassroots “Suck the Straws Out” campaign. Graham Hill, one of the organization’s co-founders, says they arrived at that number by surveying the city’s 200-plus bars, restaurants and coffee shops.
But rather than trying to get the city to ban single-use, plastic straws like they’ve done in Seattle, Oakland, Miami Beach, and a dozen more around the U.S., Hill says getting rid of straws will have more impact if it comes from the people who live and work here.
“It’s a two-way street: we need the restaurants to stop serving them and we need the citizens to become aware that straws are often times needless.”
To that end, “Suck the Straws Out” has incentives to help businesses switch to something more eco-friendly. “We will take the plastic straws from them,” says Hill, “and distribute them to the schools. We’re working with art teachers in BVSD and on the CU campus to create artwork in the next academic year.”
Calls to the city confirm that local lawmakers are not considering any kind of legislation to ban straws in the near future. Instead, they’re focused on the city’s Zero Waste Ordinance and expanding recycling and composting opportunities county-wide.
Inland Ocean Coalition founder Vicki Nichols Goldstein says she considers straws to be a good start on the path to substantially reduce plastic waste. The bigger question she asks is “can we get rid of straws and then move on to other single-use plastics?” She certainly hopes so. “Eighty percent of all the plastics found in the ocean comes from inland sources,” she explains.
In Boulder, more than 30 restaurants have signed the “Suck the Straws Out” pledge to stop using single use plastic straws, many of which have already made the switch. “We’re getting there,” says Hill. “We’re signing 20 restaurants each week.” Hill hopes to have a straw-free Boulder within the next 18 months.
KGNU is partnering with Eco-Cycle in a year long series on zero waste issues, funded by a grant from Boulder County.