The idea of Coastal Playground had been kicked around for many years before it came to fruition. One of the many ideas floating around during those years was the idea of holding a monthly beach cleanup. At the time we had no idea where to even start at or who we would need to reach out to. 7 years later if you can't catch us at our original second Saturday beach cleanup in Huntington Beach, there is always the first Saturday of the month in San Clemente. The reason for the reminiscent introduction is one, it gives a brief history of Coastal Playground and two, it also let's you know that once you get the ball rolling you never know what direction it will lead you or what you will find.
During the first clean up in 2010, we all had ideas and guesses on what item we would find most of that day. Bottle caps, cigarettes, cups, glass, needles. You name it we picked it up. One item we did not expect to be so abundant that day was plastic straws.
As we strolled along the line between sand and asphalt we could not count on our hands and toes collectively the number of straws stuck into the sand that day. It felt as if someone came in the night before just to stack the sand with straws, knowing Coastal Playground would be out there for a clean up the next day. The amount of trash picked up at that first cleanup was still very sizable but the impact on how many straws we had picked up that day would stay with us.
Over the course of the next week, our discussions turned to our 2nd cleanup, what improvements we could make, and to figure out why there were so many straws out on the beach that day. The first clue was to look across the street from the sand where a fast food chain had taken claim to some prime beach real estate. Think about this, when ordering a drink from a fast food restaurant it's not uncommon to grab a straw on the way out, or if you are in the drive-thru it's pretty much mandatory you will get one. Most if not all of us will check the bag before leaving to make sure our precious straw is in there. And if you ask for a few more straws most places will gladly oblige your request.
Now after thinking about that fast food restaurant for a moment consider this, according to an article by National Geographic entitled "Straw Wars" Americans alone use 500 million straws daily That's 3 billion five hundred million straws in ONE week alone. You can count on into the months and years moving forward but going that far will only upset you further. And when you consider that 80% of the trash that you will find in the ocean comes from land based sources, with the main contributor being plastic litter as stated by Eunomia UK it paints an ugly picture know one wants to look at.
While the straws continue to add up and make their way into our oceans the question becomes, "ok now what". Well for the current you can not use plastic straws altogether. But hey bro I link to drink my kombucha smoothie through a straw. What do I do? There are companies out there who cater to you bacteria and yeast fermenting tea addicts. You can check out companies like Simply Straws who offer a wide variety of re-useable glass straws. What sets them apart is that the straws have a lifetime guarantee so if you are accident prone like many of the Coastal Playground crew you are in luck. The moniker on the website is if you break'em we replace'em. They even come with a cleaning brush for those hard to reach areas. Check out there collection here.
Or if glass isn't your thing check out Strawfree.org who offer up the eco-friendly alternative bamboo straw. The bamboo used is locally harvested, trimmed, and hand cut all before hitting your lips. They are also working to end the use of plastic straws in Huntington Beach, CA which since our very first clean up in 2010 has been something we would like to end as well. And in the future, the key is educating everyone. Not just the little from sipping the Capri Sun under the EZ up, but also the adults sipping that half Vodka half soda next to the life guard tower. We know what you're really drinking.