Op-Ed: Environmental Club Works to Ban Plastic Straws in Newton


David Cutler

The Environmental Club is working to help ban plastic straws in Newton

Many would likely be shocked and appalled to learn that only nine percent of the world’s plastic is recycled.

Truly, the amount of plastic we use is horrifying. In the United States alone, we use 500 million straws daily. The National Park Service says that would fill 125 school buses.

Straws also happen to be one of the top ten debris found in marine areas as well and can cause significant damage to marine animals and birds. The World Wide Foundation (WWF) says that 90 percent of seabirds and sea turtles have plastic in them.

By 2050, there is projected to be more plastic in the ocean than fish. But progress is being made.

Of note, in November, New York City’s plastic straw reduction went into effect.

The ordinance states that restaurants must stop distributing plastic straws unless solicited by the customer. Instead, establishments would provide alternatives such as metal, paper, and bamboo.

The mitigation called for more than just the removal of plastic straws. The reduction also prohibits restaurants from providing plastic splash sticks and stirrers and replaces plastic utensils with environmentally-friendly options like wood.

The reduction in the largest metropolitan area in the United States is an enormous step in the right direction. However, the plastic conundrum won’t be solved only if big cities join forces to combat climate change. Smaller cities and towns need to make the switch too.

That is why the School’s Environmental Club recently partnered with Newton’s Plastics Reduction Working Committee, which includes five city councilors, to write a plastic straw reduction plan. The club’s goal is to model legislation after New York’s initiative.

The club will conduct a questionnaire for Newton and engage in outreach within the community. The club is also contacting restaurants in nearby towns like Mansfield and Somerville, which have already passed plastic straws reduction bills.

Plastic straws and splash sticks are just one step in the battle against plastic pollution and climate change. With this small shift, larger change can come.

Editors’ Note: Evan Michaeli is president of the Schools Environmental Club, which meets on Tuesdays at lunch in Room 140. All students are welcome to attend.