great pacific garbage patch okstraw paper straws

Great Pacific Garbage Patch Cleanup Progress

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

If you read the news about plastic waste, then you probably know about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Growing exponentially, the Garbage Patch poses an existential threat to the marine animals, and the people who rely on the ocean for sustenance. In order to fight this plastic waste menace, scientists and engineers set to work, and created Ocean Cleanup. 

 

While it shows great promise in plastic harvesting, Ocean Cleanup launched to a rocky start. Debuting on October, 2018 Ocean Cleanup experienced problems, but now it’s fixed, relaunched, and already showing promising results. This news thrills us at OkStraw Paper Straws, and we eagerly look forward to hearing Ocean Cleanup’s further successes. 




What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

Plastic waste is a huge threat to our planet. Not only does it contribute to climate change, but plastic waste also doesn’t biodegrade. Much of this plastic waste ends up in the oceans, where it kills marine animals who ingest it. In fact, so much plastic enters the ocean, scientists predict that plastic will outnumber fish by 2050. While we know this prediction all too well at OkStraw Paper Straws, it still scares the daylights out of us. 

 

So what is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s actually two giant circular currents of plastic waste that countries on the Pacific Ocean generate. Located between California and Hawaii, and between Hawaii and Japan, these two garbage masses mostly consist of plastic waste. With at least 1.8 million pieces of plastic, scientists predict the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly growing the day. Unless we use ecofriendly alternatives to plastic, this massive oceanic patch will grow out of control.

Enter The Ocean Cleanup

Based out of the Netherlands, The Ocean Cleanup’s star creation is a plastic harvesting device. Ocean Cleanup consists of bloating booms in the Garbage Patch, and fine screens attached that catch and contain plastic particles. After containing these plastics, cleanup crews can then take this waste to shore, and properly recycle them. 

First presented by CEO Boyan Slat at a TEDx conference in 2012, Ocean Cleanup underwent a lengthy development phase.The Ocean Cleanup device finally made its debut on October 2018, but had to go in for repairs this January. Relaunching on June 2019, Ocean Cleanup announced that the device is successfully harvesting plastic waste. 

In addition to harvesting visible plastic waste, Ocean Cleanup can now capture microplastic pieces as small as 1 millimeter. Microplastics are a big problem, because unlike biodegradable paper, they never dissolve, and continue polluting the environment. If anyone is serious about harvesting plastic waste, then they have to capture microplastics.

A Future Without Plastic Harvesting

While Ocean Cleanup’s plastic harvesting is fantastic news, we at OkStraw Paper Straws know it’s only half of the fight. If we truly want to end the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, then we need to stop generating plastic waste. Thanks to tons of ecofriendly plastic alternatives on the market, plastic’s days are finally numbered. 

 

Unlike plastic straws, OkStraw’s paper straws are fully biodegradable, requiring no special composting or recycling facilities. As longtime Pacific coastal residents, we at OkStraw witness the impact plastic waste has on our beaches and waterways. Because of this, we extend our most heartfelt gratitude to the people behind Ocean Cleanup for all they’ve done. There may still be tons of plastics in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but you’ll never find an OkStraw paper straw among them.

OkStraw Paper Straws Supports the Surfrider Foundation

The fight single-use plastic waste brings in new supports each and every day, thanks to the work of environmental groups. OkStraw Paper Straws would like to recognize a true guardian of our hometown San Diego’s beaches: The Surfrider Foundation.

Founded in 1984, Surfrider is headquartered in California, and has chapters throughout the US, Hawai’i, Puerto Rico, and several countries. The Surfrider Foundation’s San Diego County chapter dedicates itself to protect its 72 miles of coastline. As beach-going San Diegans, we at OkStraw Paper Straws owe our deepest gratitude to Surfirder’s tireless work.

The Surfrider Foundation fights against single-use plastic waste through its Rise Above Plastic campaign.

OkStraw Paper Straws at Surfrider's Fiesta Island Cleanup

Stop Plastic Waste at the Source

Part of the fight against trash harming marine animals is to stop it before it can enter the ocean. Surfrider hosts regular beach cleanups, removing over 31,000 pounds of trash in just the past two years. As important as beach cleanups are, however, we need to stop wasting plastic to begin with. Small steps like replacing plastic straws and bags with paper straws and bags keeps our beaches cleaner and healthier. 

The Surfrider Foundation fights against single-use plastic waste through its Rise Above Plastic campaign. Surfrider has a list on its website of ten ways people can fight single-use plastic waste, including supporting plastic bag bans, bringing your own mug or beverage container, and cutting down on plastic packaging and straws. Keeping San Diego’s beaches and its marine animals healthy and safe is a monumental responsibility. We at OkStraw do our part to kick single-use plastics, one straw at a time.

Surfrider hosts an online pledge to stop using single-use plastic straws.

Surfrider maintains a list of local restaurants and cafes that qualify as Ocean Friendly Restaurants. Ocean Friendly Restaurants must follow proper recycling practices, they cannot use polystyrene containers, single-use tableware, or plastic bags. Ocean Friendly Restaurants must only offer straws on request. 

Surfrider of San Diego County also hosts an online pledge people can sign to stop using single-use plastic straws. At OkStraw Paper Straws, ending the plastic straw is part of our company’s mission. 

Surfrider of San Diego County also focuses on publicly advocating for the pollution issue affecting beaches in the border region. Sewage runoff from Tijuana, Mexico poses a serious health hazard to beachgoers on both sides of the border, causing beaches such as Rosarito, Coronado, Imperial Beach to be closed to the public. With no action being taken by the federal government, it is up to nonprofits like the Surfrider Foundation to raise the alarm, and combat this health threat to both San Diego County’s and Mexico’s beaches.

From campaigning to end single-plastics waste, advocating public action against coastal pollution, to hosting trash cleanups, the Surfrider Foundation takes a holistic approach to protect San Diego County’s Beaches. All of these efforts are a reminder that while the cause to end plastic waste is a major effort in itself, it’s just one of many battles that must be waged to protect our planet’s rivers, lakes and oceans. We at OkStraw Paper Straws would like to extend greatest appreciation to nonprofits like the Surfrider Foundation for fighting to keep San Diego America’s Finest City.

Businesses in San Diego Moving Away from Single-Use Plastic Straws

The City of San Diego is putting the brakes on enforcing a new set of laws on single-use plastics, after being sued by the California Restaurant Association. Under the new laws, most restaurants will no longer be allowed to hand out plastic straws to customers, unless requested. In addition, all people and businesses within San Diego city limits will be prohibited from handing out polystyrene (Styrofoam) foodware items in buildings or at special events run by the City. This list of items includes takeout containers, foam egg cartons, and foam plates. The ban on polystyrene foodware was set to take effect on May 24th, and the restriction on straws was to begin on February 23rd.

High quality paper straws are an excellent sustainable alternative to single-use plastics.

Despite these laws being put on hold, businesses in San Diego are moving forward with their switch from single-use plastics straws to biodegradable alternatives, such as paper straws. Some of these local business owners are already acquainted with plastic straw bans.  Woodstock’s Pizza owners Laura Ambrose and her husband are have complied with local bans on plastic straws in other California cities, where they operate a number of restaurants. With more cities California banning or restricting single-use plastic straws, the demand for biodegradable paper straws has shot up dramatically. As a result, paper straw companies are struggling to keep up production, and deliver orders to their customers on time. 

The City of San Diego states on its website that these new restrictions on single-use plastic straws and polystyrene foodware are part of its Zero Waste goals. Volunteers in 2017 picked up more than 20,000 pieces of plastic from San Diego’s beaches, according to the non-profit Surfrider Foundation. The Surfrider Foundation states that single-use plastic straws are one of the most frequently picked up items during beach cleanups. Because they are small and flimsy, most plastic straws are difficult if not impossible to recycle. These plastic straws can enter the ocean, where they pose a serious threat to marine animals. Turtles, birds and fish often ingest plastic straws by mistake, causing injury or death.

Although San Diego’s new single-use plastic straw ordinance has been put on hold, businesses in the city are nevertheless taking the steps to phase out this non-biodegradable item from their premises. With another major city in the US getting rid of single-use plastic straws and foodware, companies selling paper straws and eco-friendly takeout containers will be facing a bigger demand than ever before. As a renowned destination city for visitors from across the world, San Diego has the potential of making an impact far greater than the boundaries of its city limits.

Two Coastal Israeli Cities to Ban Single-Use Plastic from Their Beaches

Two of Israel’s coastal cities, Herzliya and Eilat, have announced plans to ban single-use plastics from their beaches. Banned items include but are not limited to plastic bags, plastic straws, and plastic cutlery. Both cities will be joining a growing list of countries and municipalities around the world’s coasts that have passed similar bans on single-use plastics, including Peru, Chile, and several US states.

The city of Eilat, located on the Red Sea, intends to tackle plastic waste on its beaches through a two-stage plan. This plan includes educating and discouraging local businesses from using plastics, and then enforcing the ban on single-use plastics from its beaches. Plastic water bottles will be exempt from the ban, however. Eilat’s city hall also plans to organize a campaign to raise awareness among residents and visitors about the harmful effects of plastic on marine life and coral reefs. For Eilat, banning single-use plastics from its beaches will be crucial to preserving its world-famous coral reefs that attract divers from around the world. Eilat’s ban on single-use plastics from its beach also coincides with Egypt’s Red Sea Governorate’s ban on all single-use plastics from its beaches by June. With authorities in two different countries announcing bans on single-use plastics from their beaches, there may be a chance for a more aggressive push to eliminate plastic waste from the Red Sea. Eilat is also collaborating with governmental agencies and organizations to educate visitors, residents and business owners about the harmful effects of plastic waste through social media campaigns and billboards.

Herliya’s ban on single-use plastics from its Mediterranean beaches is part of a joint initiative between its local government and the Israeli environmental organization Zalul (“clear”), launched on January 2018. Herzliya’s mayor Moshe Fadlon intends to make his municipality the starting point for a mission to ban single-use plastics across Israel. Fadlon plans to create a ripple effect by encouraging other cities to follow Herzliya, and eventually introducing a national law in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, which will prohibit single-use plastics from the entire country. Israel’s government has taken notice of the growing concern over the harmful effects of plastic on the world’s waters. The Israeli Environmental Protection Ministry’s data estimates that plastics comprise 90 percent of trash in marine environments, with nearly 60 percent of that waste coming from trash thrown onto beaches. The ministry is also looking into investigating how much of the amount of plastic on Israel’s beaches comes from other countries, and how much of that amount is generated within the country. Plastic waste has a tremendous impact on the environment. Not only does plastic waste hurt or kill marine animals and birds that mistake it for food, but this waste can break down into micro-particles that can migrate through the food chain and end up in human bodies.

The new ban on single-use plastics from the beaches of Herzliya and Eilat shows promise, as both cities are tackling plastic pollution in two major bodies of water, as well as taking the steps of raising national awareness through PR and policy campaigns. Should these efforts succeed, Israel may become a world leader in eliminating single-use plastic waste. Tourists visiting Israeli beaches may soon take out lunch from biodegradable fiber cartons, and enjoy their beverages with paper straws instead of their plastic counterparts.

Fiesta Island Trash Cleanup

OkStraw Paper Straws is planning to join FIDO (Fiesta Island Dog Owners) for a Trash cleanup at Fiesta Island in Mission Bay, San Diego, on June 9thLet us know if you would like to join the cause!

Clean up will be from 9:30am to 11am.

Volunteers helping with the pick-up: Bring your own gloves if you prefer. FIDO will have single-use latex gloves along with trash bags to fill. If you have a picker-upper, we recommend bringing that too, unless the reason for helping is the wonderful ab exercising!