Teaming up to fight straw pollution



From ecoRI News (

NEWPORT, R.I. — In response to increased plastic waste on beaches and in the ocean, Green Drinks Newport recently partnered with Clean Ocean Access and The Last Straw to launch Strawless by the Sea, a collaborative campaign to eliminate plastic straws in the City-by-the-Sea.

Strawless by the Sea launched June 8, on World Oceans Day, and will continue through the summer. Bars, restaurants and other establishments in Newport, such as coffee shops and yacht clubs, are encouraged to make a voluntary commitment to stop offering plastic straws and stirrers, in an effort to stop plastic pollution at the source.

According to the Ocean Conservancy, more than 500 million plastic straws are used daily in the United States — enough to circle the earth 2.5 times. Plastic straws are used for 20 minutes on average, but take up to 500 years to break down.

“Last summer I was eating at an outdoor establishment on a very windy day and watched several plastic straws blow into the water,” said Kara DiCamillo, Green Drinks Newport organizer and Clean Ocean Access board member. “I’ve attended many beach cleanups hosted by Clean Ocean Access and knew that I’d be picking those same straws up one day.”

In Newport, straws are among the top 10 items found during beach cleanups, and can do so much harm to seabirds, turtles and other marine creatures. Clean Ocean Access (COA) staff and volunteers have picked more than 2,000 straws on local beaches during the past five years, and some 650 more have been collected by COA’s marina trash skimmers in Newport Harbor in just eight months.

“We are thrilled to see the community-led efforts to eradicate plastic straws, and this effort aligns perfectly with our successful two-year campaign for a plastic bag ordinance on Aquidneck and Conanicut islands,” said Dave McLaughlin, COA’s executive director and co-founder. “The spirit of our position for the plastic bag ordinance was to tickle more persuasion so that people start making better choices in their daily lives to eliminate single-use plastics and to switch to durable reusable alternatives. There are real cost savings for businesses and consumers and this initiative advances the efforts of the biggest islands in the Ocean State to lead by example that a thriving economy and a healthy economy go hand in hand.”

Restaurants can reduce the use of plastic straws by implementing a “straws upon request” policy, switching to paper straws or reusable straws, or by going completely “strawless.”

Tyler Bernadyn, a local hospitality professional who started The Last Straw, an internalized campaign to educate bartenders and their guests on the importance of recognizing and reducing plastic pollution, said he knows we can all do better.

“Seeing how many single-use straws and plastic cups are wasted during a single service and watching these same items wash up on our beaches and pollute our harbor really inspired me to start this initiative,” he said. “Being behind the bar, you have an opportunity to encourage change and help protect our most valuable resources here in Newport, which is our beaches and waterways.”

Several Newport-area establishments have joined Strawless by the Sea: Bannister’s Wharf Marina & Guest Rooms, Belle’s Café at the Newport Shipyard, Brix Restaurant at Newport Vineyards, The Clarke Cooke House, Fluke, Malt, Mission, Newport Dinner Cruises, Scales & Shells, TSK, Winner Winner, and Taproot Brewing Co. at Newport Vineyards (scheduled to open June 20).

Environmental groups and local businesses have also backed Strawless by the Sea, including Bowen’s Wharf, Discover Newport, Sail Newport, Sailors for the Sea, The Ocean Project, and World Oceans Day.

“As an individual, refusing a single-use plastic straw in our bars and restaurants in Newport is the easiest and simplest way to take action to address plastic pollution that is in our waters and on our beaches,” DiCamillo said.