How Citizens Are Organizing To Ban Plastic Straws In One Colorado City

Citizens in Boulder, Colorado are urging local officials to ban the use of plastic straws in their city, via a campaign they have dubbed "Suck the Straws Out of Boulder," in order to cut down on plastic waste filling landfills in their state.


May 26 2019, Updated 2:21 p.m. ET

Plastic straws are some of the most common one-use plastic items in the world. They are everywhere, from fast-food establishments to sit-down restaurants and coffee shops. They're even on items we buy at the grocery store, such as juice boxes. For the sake of convenience, some people buy plastic straws to use at home. 

Unfortunately, because plastic does not biodegrade, seemingly small plastic objects, such as straws, can pose a big problem for the environment. They crowd already-overburdened landfills and, according to Dailycamera, they are one of the most commonly-littered items in the world. 

Unfortunately, eco-friendly alternatives, such as glass or stainless steel straws, haven't taken off the ground yet, often because of cost, accessibility, or lack of consumer awareness that these options exist. Luckily, a grassroots organization to curb plastic straw use is budding in one Colorado city.

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In Boulder, Colorado, one concerned citizen, Graham Hill, was recently awarded a $300 micro-grant given out by the city and the group C3 Boulder to support climate-related local initiatives. With this grant, Hill decided to do something about plastic straws in his city. He formed a movement, called the "Suck the Straws Out of Boulder Campaign," aimed at gaining legislative support for a plastic straw ban (or limit) in Boulder.

"There's enough plastic-straw waste in the U.S. to wrap around the Earth 2.5 times every day," Hill explained to Dailycamera. "I have always been pestered internally by the sight of straws that are used, that are wasted, that are ridiculous. There could be three straws that a bartender sticks in your glass. We take products like straws for granted."  

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Hill is not the only Colorado resident concerned about straw use. In 2013, Colorado Govenor John Hickenlooper declared July 11th "Straw Free Day" in the state. One Boulder teen, Milo Cress, has been vocal about his opposition to plastic straws, gaining many like-minded followers on social media and starting his own anti-straw initiative, called the "Be Straw Free Campaign." According to Hill, "Suck the Straws Out of Boulder" would like to partner with Cress at some point in the future. Hill's campaign has also gained an advocate in famous soft-rock singer Jack Johnson. According to Dailycamera, Johnson plans to mention the campaign during two of his concerts in Colorado next week. 

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But Boulder isn't the only U.S. city examining its relationship with plastic straws. Just as bans on plastic shopping bags have begun to pop up across the country, so have bans or limits on plastic straws. In California, several cities have banned or limited plastic straw use. For example, Malibu has banned many plastic items, including plastic bags and straws. Berkeley is considering similar legislation, while Alameda, California now requires that all straws be recyclable. But such bans often take years to become law, and require vast amounts of public support to get off the ground. 

In spite of the difficult road ahead, Graham Hill remains undaunted and ultimately optimistic about the eventual success of the "Suck the Straws Out of Boulder" campaign. "I compare our campaign to the (indoor) smoking ban here in Boulder," Hill told Dailycamera. "It was first talked about as something where restaurants wouldn't be able to support their clientele. Then it was OK." 

"Will we have 400 restaurants and bars all convinced by the end of August? No. But we anticipate we're going to have so very good results. We just have a lot of work in front of us."


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