Since June of 2017, we have removed 2735 plastic straws from beaches within Suffolk County, and thousands upon thousands of polystyrene foam pieces.
In an effort to reduce some of the debris we find on our beaches from the source, we initiated the Strawless Summer program in partnership with Group for the East End and the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society with the ultimate goal of reducing the amount of plastic straws being used in Eastern Long Island. We screened the Straws Film countless times, and sent armies of volunteers out to convince their favorite restaurants to make the switch away from plastic straws.
About 60 restaurants pledged to 1) go completely strawless 2) provide backyard biodegradable straws upon request, or 3) provide reusables.
Just a few months later, Southampton Town passed a law that banned plastic straws and polystyrene foam. And just yesterday, on Earth Day 2019, Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone signed in a county-wide ban of plastic straws and polystyrene foam (effective January 2020).
Here are the specifics:
STRAWS – Local Law 1113:
Plastic straws are prohibited and *backyard* biodegradable straws (paper, bamboo) are given only upon request. This law strictly prohibits “compostable bioplastics.” In the case of an individual with a disability, restaurants are able to hold onto a small amount of plastic straws.
POLYSTYRENE FOAM – Local Law 1112:
Restaurants are prohibited from using polystyrene foam disposable food takeout containers, including cups, trays, foam “clam shell” containers, and packaging “peanuts” within Suffolk. This law doesn’t include pre-packaged foods filled prior to receipt by the food service establishment, nor does it apply to the retail sale of electronics packed prior to entering the store.
These laws would not have passed without the ~60 restaurants who voluntarily switched away from using plastic straws, and without the consensus from our local communities that easy, affordable solutions are available beyond polystyrene foam, a known carcinogen.
This also would not be possible without our volunteers who passionately defend our coastal community.