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Straws Suck!

DECR hopes to keep the “NO STRAWS” campaign going year-round.

By Amy Avenant, DECR Environment Outreach Coordinator

The Department of Environment & Coastal Resources (DECR) has just wrapped up a successful “NO STRAW” campaign during the annual Greening TCI Month. But why attack the humble straw? Well, as it turns out, straws aren’t as innocent as they appear . . .

“Say No to Straws” was the theme of the DECR’s “No Straw” campaign during Greening TCI Month. This small piece of plastic, used only for a short time, has the capacity for huge environmental impact.

Let’s start at the beginning: We have one Mr. Leo Baekeland to thank for the invention of the world’s first fully synthetic plastic—appropriately named
“bakelite.” Invented in 1907, Bakelite was used for its electrical non-conductivity and heat-resistant properties in electrical insulators, radio and telephone casings and even in products such as kitchenware, jewelry and children’s toys. The development of plastics has evolved from the use of natural plastic materials (e.g. chewing gum) to the use of chemically modified, natural materials (e.g. natural rubber, collagen) and finally to completely synthetic molecules.
Yep, that is correct, plastics can be either found in natural substances or may be man-made. Most of the plastics used today are man-made. Man-made plastics are known as synthetic plastics. Natural “plastic products” occur in such things as animals’ horns, animals’ milk, insects, plants and trees. Due to their low cost, ease of manufacture, versatility, and imperviousness to water, synthetic plastics are used in a multitude of products of different scale and they have triumphed over traditional materials, such as wood, stone, horn and bone, leather, metal, glass and ceramic.
Plastics are simply chains of like molecules linked together, called polymers. This is why many plastics begin with “poly,” such as polyethylene, polystyrene, and polypropylene. Polymers often are made of carbon and hydrogen and sometimes oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, chlorine, fluorine, phosphorous or silicon. The term “plastics” encompasses all these various polymers.
One of the useful properties of polymers is that they are unreactive, so they are suitable for storing food and chemicals safely. Unfortunately, this property makes it difficult to dispose of polymers. They are often buried in landfill sites or burned, and are not readily biodegradable. This means that they will not disintegrate by bacteria, fungi or other biological means.
Now this is where things start getting dangerous. For a good 60 years, we have increasingly been using these polymers, not considering that it may have a serious impact on our natural environments, globally!
Because plastic does not biodegrade (it instead breaks down into small particles called micro-plastics), it can negatively impact human health by releasing toxins into the food chain and by poisoning wildlife and marine life. In fact, global plastic pollution has reached a critical point with the World Economic Forum estimating that 8 MILLION METRIC TONS of plastic winds up in our oceans each year. That’s enough trash to cover every foot of coastline around the world with five full trash bags of plastic, compounding every year!
But, we all have the opportunity to curb this plastic attack with our own “war on plastic.” And the simplest way to start is by saying NO to the straw! That itty bitty piece of plastic, used for all of ten minutes, will take a lifetime to disappear (if at all), has the potential to harm wildlife and will find its way up the food chain and back into your belly before you know it!
So what can you do to make sure you and your family and friends win the battle of the polymers? Making a change is as easy as 1, 2, 3:
1. Stop using straws, and all other single-use plastics like bags and take-out food containers;
2. Buy products with no to minimal packaging;
3. Spread the word to your friends and family and tell businesses to stop using single-use plastics!

The DECR would like to thank the following establishments for saying NO to straws during Greening TCI Month (April 22–May 23, 2018):

• The Landing Bar & Kitchen
• Asú on the Beach
• Retreat Kitchen Vegetarian Café & Juice Bar
• Ocean Club Resorts
• Da Conch Shack & RumBar
• Neptune Villas, Las Brisas Restaurant & Bar
• Mis Amigos Cocina Mexicana
• Cocovan
• The Palms Turks & Caicos
• Seasalt Personal Chef Services
• Pelican Bay Restaurant & Bar
• West Bay Club
• Pavilion at the Somerset
• Zest! and Stelle at the Gansevoort Turks + Caicos
• Lupo Restaurant
• Turks & Caicos Collection
• The Sands and Hemingways on the Beach
• Oasis Divers, Grand Turk
• Bajari Beach Club, Grand Turk
• Ridge Café, Grand Turk
• Osprey Beach Hotel, Grand Turk

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