Stop Sucking


Brittany Hong/Chronicle

Sonya Ribner

Let’s face it, you suck. I suck. We suck together. But we can stop sucking and that’s my challenge to you, HW. We at HW need to do our part to help reduce toxic plastic pollution.

The Strawless Ocean Initiative of the Lonely Whale Foundation has started a campaign, #stopsucking, to encourage people to stop having drinks with single-use plastic straws. They have some pretty shocking statistics on their website – the one that had the most profound impact on me is that “if we don’t act now, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.” The foundation lists some other disturbing facts: “71% of seabirds and 30% of turtles have been found with plastics in their stomachs.” In addition “we use over 500 million [straws] every day in America, and most of those end up in our oceans, polluting the water and killing marine life.”

Only half of the marine life that ingests plastic survives. The plastic used to make straws decomposes into “microplastics” instead of biodegrading, which poses a still greater threat to marine life because it means that their environment will constantly be contaminated. These “microplastics” are also infiltrating our food supply. When fish eat the plastic, by extension, humans do too. According to the European Food Safety Authority there is an increased concern for human health and food safety, “given the potential for microplastic pollution in edible tissues of commercial fish.” In addition, National Geographic reported that “eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean every year,” enough to cover every foot of coastline in the world. The problem of plastic pollution seems almost overwhelming. However, we can, and should, take immediate steps that can begin to address the problem.

As the world becomes more aware of the dire threat plastic pollution poses, action has begun. In Kenya, the government has placed a ban on plastic bags so that producing, selling, or using a plastic bag will result in either imprisonment of four years or fines of $40,000. The United Kingdom’s parliament is considering a tax on single-use plastic bottles to reduce plastic waste. Along with banning plastic bags, France will be the first country to ban plastic cups, plates, and utensils by 2020. In fact, Los Angeles was one of the first cities in the United States to implement a plastic bag ban.

Our HW community can take important steps to join the global efforts to stop the utilization of single-use plastic. Here at HW we can start by eliminating plastic straws in our cafeteria and our daily lives. Why do we really need straws anyway? We can stop using them when we go to restaurants and encourage our families to stop using straws at home. At school, we can go a step further and eliminate single-use plastic water bottles. For example, we can choose to stop stocking plastic bottled water and fill our refrigerator at school with the great boxed waters that the HW cafeteria smartly offers to us. Alternatively, bring our own water bottles to school and fill them up so that we no longer have empty plastic bottles randomly strewn around campus.

These are just a few simple things we can do in real time in our daily lives to make our school more environmentally conscious. HW can set an example for other schools and communities to abandon – or at least reduce – consumption of single-use plastic. Together, we can stop sucking and initiate a profound change for the environment.