Earlier today, VPIRG stood alongside business owners and environmentalists in the kick off for the Straws Upon Request Pledge, a statewide campaign aimed at reducing the number of single-use plastic straws used and thrown away in Vermont.
The idea is pretty simple: businesses that take the pledge will make straws available to their customers only upon request.
This campaign builds off of the work of business leaders like Rachel Vandenberg of Stowe Bowl and Sun and Ski Inn and Suites, and activists like Milo Cress, who got the ball rolling on this campaign in Vermont back in 2011 when he was only nine years old. Both Rachel and Milo spoke at today’s press event, as well as Samantha Sheehan of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR).
The goal of the Straws Upon Request campaign is to bring increased visibility to the myriad problems surrounding our plastics problem, as well as the alternatives to single-use plastic straws that are readily available — such as glass, stainless steel, and paper straws (or just skipping the straw altogether!)
There’s no doubt that single-use plastics are a huge problem. The equivalent of one garbage truck full of discarded plastics is dumped into the ocean every minute. These plastics that we throw “away” persist for hundreds of years — endangering wildlife, polluting the environment and posing a risk to human health. That same straw that you used in your water glass for five minutes will exist for hundreds of years as plastic pollution.
Recent studies estimate that by 2050, there will be more plastic pollution in our oceans than fish.
Food and beverage establishments that take the Straws Upon Request Pledge can have a big impact on reducing single-use plastic pollution and save some money along the way. This modest, voluntary shift in business practice is a win for the environment, and a win for business too.
In collaboration with VBSR, we’ve been urging Vermont businesses to take the pledge for just a couple of weeks, and the response has already been fantastic. We’re well on our way towards our goal of getting at least 100 businesses signed up by the end of the year.
There’s so much more we can be doing to address the issues surrounding our plastics problem. The launch of the Straws Upon Request Pledge is just one step forward in a much broader campaign we’ll be waging on single-use plastics. Whether it’s dramatically curbing the use of plastic bags or modernizing the Bottle Bill to include plastic containers — VPIRG will be moving forward on a variety of fronts to tackle plastic pollution.
Thankfully, Vermonters aren’t alone in tackling the problem of plastic straws. Numerous restaurants and municipalities across the country have established similar “straws upon request” policies, and cities such as Seattle, Vancouver, and Malibu have already banned plastic straws. New York City could soon follow suit. The European Union has announced plans to phase out single-use plastics altogether, as has the retail giant Ikea.
The global movement away from single-use plastics is really taking off, and we’re heartened to see Vermonters join the fight. We’ll keep our members updated on these efforts and how you can continue to take part in putting an end to unnecessary plastic waste in the coming months and years.