The straw that broke mother nature’s back

Lindsey Charlton
Environment reporter

Straws are tiny bits of plastic that pose a serious threat to the world’s environment.

Humber’s Office of Sustainability and activists around the city are trying to get people to rethink the use of straws and other unnecessary plastics.

National Straw Elimination day, #skipthestraw, was last week, and has become a social media movement based on the “Straws Suck” campaign that has been gaining traction. The Humber Sustainability Office took part in the social media initiative as an effort to raise awareness about eliminating the use of plastic straws and from people’s every day routines.

The little plastic tubes have been causing quite a stir recently over the environmental implications of their daily use, and how it is affecting our lakes and oceans. The drive to end plastic straw use is part of the agenda for many environmental groups, such as the Plastic Pollution Coalition, which wants to end single-use plastics such as straws.

“We just like to raise awareness because a lot of times we go about our day and we’re creatures of habit, and when we consume we don’t do it consciously,” said Humber’s Sustainability Office Manager Roma Malik.

Straws are among single use plastics, which over the course of a week, a month, a year, these little bits of plastic discarded every day can add up to create a larger problem.

“We’ll find that either we are unconsciously aware of the waste that is a result of our lifestyles but sometimes it’s just about informing too,” Malik said of the social media movement.

“Some of us may not know how much we can cause damage as a collective society on our eco-system.”

She said eliminating straws may not be an option for everyone, but society has created products that are not necessarily needed by everyone.

“It makes a big difference when it comes to reducing our waste creation if we’re able to just raise an alarm to the fact that it may not necessarily be a need when purchasing or consuming a beverage, even further it might be something that is just in our society because of habit,” she said.

Plastic straws offer a particular threat to oceans, lakes and sea life. Videos and photos circulating on Facebook and Instagram show sea turtles and sea birds struggling because of waste have caused some to rethink their plastic usage.

But the task can be overwhelming to some.

“It seems so big and we read these articles every day that says things like, ‘90 per cent of sea birds have ingested some type of plastic and 52 per cent percent of turtles have,’” said Toronto activist and surfer Jenn Dumaran.

“Our oceans and beaches are so full of plastic and it feels like such a big problem,” said the fashion arts and business alumna. “But I thought for me, if I want to do something I need to break it down even if it’s just one small actionable step.”

Dumaran said she believes it’s all about taking small steps, and rethinking what one can do personally to reduce their waste, focusing on what she says are the five R’s, refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot.

She cites her passion for surfing as being the big push to take on the initiative and change the way she uses plastic. Having developed a new respect for the environment, especially the Great Lakes, and participating in regular beach clean-ups around the Greater Toronto Area.

“That really triggered the idea that we have to be stewards of this, because if we’re not who’s going to be?” Damaran asked. “Who’s going to take care of this if it’s not us?”

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