The last straw: Why you need to stop sucking

It’s been over two years since this harrowing video of a sea turtle with a straw lodged in its nose went viral. It’s not easy to watch, and created an outcry at the time. The Plastic Pollution Coalition responded with the Refuse the Straw initiative. It urged consumers to say no to the straws we receive on a daily basis with our drinks. Closer to home, local restaurants have just begun to join in the movement, encouraging their customers to go straw-less or even taking it upon themselves to stop offering them altogether.


A post shared by a baker’s café (@afroboer) on

Why refuse straws?

Each year, 300 million tons of plastic are produced globally, and 10% of that will end up in the sea. Plastic already outweighs plankton in our oceans, and scientists estimate that it will outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050. Straws don’t make up the bulk of that weight, but according to National Geographic, their size makes them “one of the most insidious polluters because they entangle marine animals and are consumed by fish”. Worldwide numbers are hard to come by, but even national figures are staggering: In America, 500 million straws are used every single day. Australian environmental group WildAware say that plastic straws make up approximately 40% of beach litter, and that it’s not unusual for them to pick up 500 during a beach clean up.

That’s a lot of straws, considering that a single one could be deadly to a sea bird or turtle. A recent study estimated that nine in ten of the world’s seabirds have pieces of plastic in their guts. And it reaches down the food chain: another recent study found that humans who eat seafood ingest up to 11 000 pieces of plastic every year.  

Who’s getting involved?

Restaurants in South Africa are taking the campaign seriously. Cape Town Mexican restaurant El Burro has been involved since June, when owner Nic realised they were using thousands of straws a month. The decision to eradicate their straw usage came soon after: “We went for a walk on a beach in Cape Town and the beach was riddled with straws. This cemented our sentiments and we decided then and there to stop the use of plastic straws.” Restaurants like Junior in Tamboerskloof, Afroboer in Pretoria and Royale Eatery in Cape Town’s city bowl are also involved by strongly encouraging their customers to order their drink without a straw.  


Several other restaurants are using plastic straw alternatives

Though none come cheap, restaurants can clean and re-use glass straws. Bootlegger in Sea Point is making use of Stream Straws, which are glass-tempered and come with a little cleaning brush. Loading Bay too uses glass straws which, in addition to being sustainable, look trés cool. Vista Marina uses paper straws and some restaurants are also using bamboo straws. Trust us, it’s going to take your Instagram to a whole new level and make the sea turtles happy. Win win.

How can I help?

Announce upfront when you order that you don’t want a straw (yes, even at fast food places). If they ask why, let them know and encourage the manager to check out the campaign. Tell your friends to request no straw. And, if they won’t, be like this hilarious man.  

  A post shared by Zero Waste Memes (@zerowastememes) on



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