Amelia Bonjour, Alyssa Christen, and Emma Dominguez presented information about how single-use plastic straws affect our environment.
Three students from Spruce Creek High School, Amelia Bonjour, Alyssa Christen and Emma Dominguez, all 11th- and 12th-grade students, presented “Single-Use Plastic Straws: Environmental Impact and Alternatives” to the Port Orange City Council at the regular meeting on May 7.
The students are part of a Youth Leadership program created by the city and headed by Assistant City Manager Alan Rosen.
The students’ presentation coincided with Florida passing HB771 which forbids cities and counties from creating ordinances that ban use of single-use plastic straws. When the bill went to Gov. Ron DeSantis, it was vetoed.
Since 1950, the world has produced 8.3 billion tons of plastic. That is equivalent to the weight of 1 billion elephants. Approximately 2,000 plastic straws end up in the ocean each year.
In 2018, locally, 55,323 pieces of debris were picked up during the Volusia County International Coastal Clean Up, including 2,225 plastic straws.
Worldwide in 2017, 643,562 plastic straws were taken out of the environment by volunteers from 20 different countries.
Plastic straws are made out of polypropylene which is recyclable; however, there is no market for it. If straws become part of other recyclable plastics that do have a market, the recycled bundle is considered contaminated by the straws and thrown out.
Christen talked about how plastics can have serious consequences for animals. At a marine rehabilitation center in Juno Beach, 50% of turtles in residence died from ingested plastic. All of the turtles present had plastic in their system.
Some animals can ingest so much plastic in their stomachs that they develop a false sense of feeling full and starve to death.
Plastics affect our food chain. They can break down into microbes which are ingested by phytoplankton, which is ingested by marine animals that are eaten by people. A study done in 2018 found that 100% of the people tested had plastic in their stool.
Chemicals from plastic straws being used frequently and for long periods can get into humans and affect health, such as increased dental issues and digestive problems.
Bonjour presented information about various straws that are friendlier to the environment. These included such products as:
- Compostable straws—biodegradable and made from corn or sugar cane
- Paper straws—popular in the 1960s and biodegradable
- Silicone straws—bendable and friendly for hospitals and special needs individuals
- Hay straws—natural and biodegradable
- Bamboo straws—strong
- Metal straws—can be trendy and useful but most expensive to make
- Glass straws—washable and reusable
Companies such as Starbucks, Mellow Mushroom, and Tomoka Brewing Co. have all taken action to limit the use of single-use plastic straws.
Locally businesses such as The Funky Pelican at the Flagler Beach Pier, Third Wave Cafe and Wine Bar in New Smyrna Beach, and FIG, Frappes Italian Grille, in Ormond Beach have stopped using single-use plastic straws.
International companies such as Hyatt, American Airlines, and Disney Parks have all taken steps to reduce or eliminate the use of single-use plastic straws.
Councilman Scott Stiltner complimented the students for a thorough and well done presentation.
In response to how to find reasons to get businesses more eco-friendly, he said, “You are the reason. You are the consumer base. You are the next generation. "
"Businesses don’t rest on the generation they’re targeting today," Stiltner said. "They’re always looking to the next generation who's coming behind them. They are looking at the next profitable group to step up. That is you. You are that reason.”
Stiltner also encouraged students to present to other governmental bodies around the area.
Vice Mayor Chase Tramont described the students’ report as “phenomenal,” and complimented them for “hitting everything.”
But, he said, “I wouldn’t be a guy who would push for a ban on it. Any time you mandate something on a business, it’s always going to get passed on to the consumer, every single time. The alternatives are way more expensive and that would naturally add up.”
DeSantis explained why he vetoed HB771 in a letter to Laurel M. Lee, Secretary of State.
“A number of Florida municipalities … have enacted ordinances prohibiting single-us plastic straws," he wrote. "These measures have not, as far as I can tell, frustrated any state policy or harmed the state’s interests.”