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News / Life / Clark County Life

Watershed Alliance to screen ‘Straws,’ host speaker

Film looks at how the plastic tubes harm sea turtles, other wildlife

By Dameon Pesanti, Columbian staff writer
Published: February 24, 2018, 6:05am

It’s hard to find a physical metaphor that so aptly captures the excesses and impulsiveness of a throwaway society at peak expression than the plastic drinking straw.

Straws are freely given out practically everywhere that serves a beverage, they’re never used more than once and they’re not recyclable.

By one estimate, Americans use about 500 million straws per day, although the veracity of that figure and the method used to arrive at it have been criticized. According to Reason Magazine, Technomics, a marketing analysis firm that studies the food service industry, says a more accurate figure is around 175 million straws per day.

Regardless of the true figure, straws easily find their way into the ocean and are highly hazardous to wildlife.

If You Go

• What: Watershed Alliance of Southwest Washington screening of ‘Straws’ with guest speaker Heather Trimm of Zero Waste Washington.

• When: 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27.

• Where: Vancouver Community Library, 901 C St., Vancouver.

• Cost: Free.

In an effort to spread awareness of the issue and offer some guidance on what can be done, the Watershed Alliance of Southwest Washington is screening the film “Straws” and hosting guest speaker Heather Trimm, executive director of Zero Waste Washington at the Vancouver Community Library next week.

“I think a lot of people look at environmentalism and they have certain things they think of like recycling, tree planting, cleanups,” said Watershed Alliance executive director Sunrise O’Mahoney. “So we try to show films that are outside those norms and … ones that cross continents, cross the oceans.”

Straws, she said, examines how the seemingly innocuous little tubes became such a ubiquitous piece of our daily lives over the years and the harm they’ve done to sea turtles and other marine wildlife. But the movie also attempts to explain what consumers can do.

“The Columbia River, the ocean and Puget Sound are receiving a lot of plastics that break down into very small particles and get into a lot of wildlife,” Trimm said. “Wildlife that we then eat, like mussels.”

Trimm said a growing number of municipalities around the country have taken up the issue of regulating food service waste in recent years. But straws were exempt from the so-called “Styrofoam ban” Seattle implemented in 2009. However, starting this July, non-compostable straws will be included.

During the Watershed Alliance event, Trimm will talk in greater depth about plastic pollution and studies that show its impacts on wildlife and people. She’ll talk about changes that can be made by businesses and through policy changes.

“The idea is to not leave us all thoroughly depressed,” said O’Mahoney.

The film and the talk will be held at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 27 at the Vancouver Community Library, 901 C St.

More information is available at thewatershedalliance.org.

Columbian staff writer