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They may be small, but plastic straws are a big problem.
Single-use plastic straws can’t be recycled (they slip through recycling machinery), they don’t biodegrade and many end up in the world’s oceans, where they pose significant health risks to sea life.
Americans use them to suck up more than 500 million drinks a day, according to some estimates. Anna Laprise ’20 and Avatar Simpson ’20 would like us to stop.
“It’s become something consumers do mindlessly,” said Laprise, a government major. “Except in cases where straws are necessary for medical reasons, we don’t really need them. It’s very easy to just not take the straw.”
After raising awareness about the national “Stop Sucking” campaign at Mystic Aquarium as part of a community project for the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment, Laprise and Simpson began researching straw usage on campus. They found that the College’s three coffee shops used upwards of 100,000 plastic straws a year.
Laprise and Simpson approached the Student Government Association with a proposal to replace single-use plastic straws, which cost approximately a half-cent each, with biodegradable paper straws, which cost approximately two cents. SGA voted to fund the initiative through the Sustainable Projects Fund.
“Eliminating plastic straws was a very simple, relatively cheap action that greatly increases Conn’s sustainability,” said Simpson, an environmental studies major.
Laprise and Simpson are also raising awareness on campus and in the community about other ways to cut down on disposable straw use. They suggest purchasing a reusable straw made of silicone, metal or bamboo, for example, or carrying one’s own reusable tumbler or mug.
“Walking around campus, it’s not hard to carry a coffee cup without a lid or a straw. We don’t need sippy cups,” Laprise said.