Just Say ‘No’ to Straws

            The Mattapoisett Land Trust (MLT) in partnership with the Mattapoisett Public Library hosted a presentation of the documentary “Straws” on April 17 as part of their ‘Skip the Straw Campaign’.

            The short film, which has received numerous accolades, tells the story of straws and how a seemingly innocuous item – one that nearly every human has become acquainted with – is a nemesis to wildlife, primarily aquatic species.

            MLT Education Chairman Ellen Flynn and Vice-chairman Mary Cabral explained that the film’s goal is to heighten awareness that plastic straws are found in ocean waters around the globe causing harm to sea creatures. A now rather famous video clip of a turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose is bringing that message home to roost. It is part of the 30-minute film that described the genesis of straws from ancient Mesopotamia to the 21stcentury and the consequences of using plastic straws.

            “Straws” doesn’t speak in the language of highly educated scientific stiffs, although it is populated with experts whose professional vision is focused on the impact of trash and, more specially, plastics on the planet. Instead, it brings the issue down to earth, the very earth where litter in its many forms causes damage. It suggests that even children, (by the way the film seems ready-made for the youths of the planet), can make a difference, and that difference can be in simply saying ‘no’ to straws.

            In the film we see how a plastic straw is routinely and without thought, and certainly rarely by request, served with a drink in public places such as bars and restaurants. It asks the viewer whether that straw is necessary or if we can enjoy that drink without the straw, and explains the economic advantages if straws are not used.

            There is the example of one public venue that stopped using straws, its resulting cost savings, and the reaction of the patrons. Overall it was a positive result, and the customers were just as satisfied with a paper straw or no straw at all.

            At the end of the film, a panel of local experts made comments on ways the public might participate in the ‘Skip the Straw Campaign’, beginning with simply telling your server at a restaurant you don’t want one before they deliver that glass of water or other beverage to the table.

            But the panel also broached the broader subject of ways we can decrease our household trash, promote a better use of recycling, types of recyclable materials, and the importance of spreading the word about responsible use of plastics versus the industry standard of using plastic packaging to wrap consumer goods.

            Mary Lou Nicholson of “Be The Solution to Pollution”, an educator and protagonist seeking to find newer and better ways to control and remove polluting materials from our shorelines, told the audience that plastic was so insidious, it is even used in our clothing and those plastic fibers are finding their way into the planet’s oceans and through the food chain.

            “I stopped eating fish,” she said.

            Marissa Perez-Dormitzer, coordinator of district recycling for the Greater New Bedford Regional Refuse Management District, said that while the cost of getting rid of trash is increasing, educating the public on recyclables was key. She also shared how her family of six manages trash and recycling. In her household, they use cloth napkins, for instance, kitchen cloths for cleaning, and, of course, the reusable shopping bags. She’s also weaning the family off paper towels, which she eventually will stop buying.

            Hillary Sullivan, a biogeochemist from the Woods Hole Research Center, spoke about ocean currents that carry waste, primarily plastics from one location to the other.

            “I remember being in the Turks and Caicos and finding plastic pollution that had drifted in from around the globe,” said Sullivan. “We have to change mindsets, at an early age. … Little actions can have lasting impacts.”

            And that is the message – the message of the film, the message from the MLT, and that is the message from the experts: make small changes because those changes add up. 

            Not to put too fine a point on the matter, panel member Richard Cutler, a civil engineer whose professional credentials include the study of seawater, said, “We need to get the word out. So much is just common sense, but sometimes that is lacking.” He said he’d like to see the end of using balloons in outdoor events where they can escape or be released into the atmosphere only to be found later in the gut of a turtle. “Balloons look like squid when they are floating in the water.”

            To learn more about what you can do, or to begin your own Skip the Straw Campaign in your family, visit www.strawsfilm.com, find Be The Solution To Pollution on Facebook, or simply just say ‘no’ to that plastic straw at every opportunity.

By Marilou Newell

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