After a recent YouTube video showed footage of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck up its nostril, there’s been a small but vocal public outcry surrounding single-use plastic items, with the straw bearing the brunt of the wave. Moreover, the fate of this particular turtle was far from an isolated incident: In Jupiter, Florida, the Loggerhead Marinelife Center has turned up a startling number of dead turtle hatchlings, all with plastic lodged in their digestive tracts.
This ecological travesty has activists calling for change, of which a Florida ban of single-use plastic straws is the most drastic. All things considered, however, is it truly such an extreme measure, when the future of an entire species hangs in the balance? While larger sea turtles might be able to pass the plastic after mistaking it for food and swallowing it, the bodies of the juveniles are too small to allow this, and the shards get stuck, causing the tiny creatures to perish.
Plastic straws are not a necessity, after all; they’re a luxury at best and a global nuisance at worst. Marilu Cristina Flores, the Jupiter resident who has drafted an ordinance to ban plastic straws, suggests that restaurants stop automatically distributing straws with every iced beverage. Biodegradable alternatives—made of bamboo, paper, glass, or stainless steel—could be kept on hand for patrons who request the use of a straw.
All reasonable suggestions, considering the cost to the local marine life, which is in itself a major draw to the Florida tourism industry. Scientists at Loggerhead have pointed out that there’s no way of knowing the overall death toll of the turtles, as they can only account for the ones that have washed up on their beach. Taking that into account, the number that have been brought into the marine life facility is already too high.
Florida residents have already begun to embrace the “no-straw” philosophy, with many of state’s restaurants and resorts—among them The Breakers of Palm Beach—already doing away with automatic straw distribution. The overall response thus far has been positive, which is encouraging news for Flores’s campaign and for the sea turtle population alike. Residents are likewise encouraged to cut down on single-straw use at home, switching to the biodegradable alternatives wherever possible.