By Robyn Wolcott

Straws…the new enemy? That may sound extreme, but plastic pollution is a major problem for our oceans. Per earthday.org, by the year 2050, plastic will outweigh fish in the ocean pound for pound. Gross, right? There is a movie by Linda Booker called “Straws.” The title is written in the “Jaws” font for good reason – seeing a straw removed from a turtle’s nostril is not for those with a weak stomach and it’s in the movie’s trailer at strawsfilm.com.

In the movie, an instructor asks a kid, “What do you think the straw is trying to solve – what problem?” He thinks for a minute and laughs as he says “I guess just the problem of having to lift the cup to your face?”

Local Madison businesses are starting to turn the tide by eliminating or reducing their straw use.

The Madison Beach Hotel went to paper straws in February 2018 and recently went to compostable plastic straws when the paper straw demand prevented the hotel from purchasing.

Other restaurants in Madison have started to work toward the same goal. The Clam Castle went to paper straws noting on their facebook page, “We prefer our paper straws to protect our oceans & wildlife but just sipping doesn’t ‘suck’ either.”

Moxie took a variation on the movement and has stopped automatically serving straws with drinks. Their facebook page shows an image of a cartoon fish with a sign saying “Stop sucking! Say NO to plastic straws!” and the restaurant says “Join the effort to save our finned and flippered friends! We’ll still have them on hand, so if you prefer a straw for your soda or cocktail, just ask!”

“At first we researched plastic alternatives, but all were either too hard to come by, too expensive, or too impractical,” says Karen Weiler, General Manager of Moxie. “Then one of our bartenders went on vacation to North Carolina and noticed that most, if not all, of the bars and restaurants down there served their [drinks] with no straw. Straws were available upon request. We decided to try out the concept as a test run. Throughout both lunch and dinner service, not one customer asked for a straw.”

In Moxie’s case, the effort showed an immediate value to the planet and a little to the business.

“We were spending approximately $40 per month on straws,” says Weiler, roughly one month after Moxie’s facebook announcement. “Since we stopped automatically serving them, we haven’t placed a straw order at all.”

To help in this effort, The Madison Chamber has created signs to help businesses get the word out to customers – but it doesn’t stop at straws.

“Plastic bags are also a major source of plastic pollution, so we’re encouraging businesses to ask customers if they need a bag,” says Eileen Banisch, Madison Chamber Executive Director. “We believe that people are aware of the problem and will say they don’t need one.”

“We know that paper comes with its own set of issues, as the production and shipping of paper goods comes with its own carbon footprint,” says Robyn Wolcott, PR Chair for Madison Chamber. “In a perfect world, people would focus on reusable products instead of either [plastic or paper] option.”

Of course, if the business plans to change the type of straw they use, there is an upfront cost to the businesses. It can be much more expensive to buy paper products instead of plastic. The end-goal is to reduce the overall need for these products at all, thus hopefully, eventually saving the businesses money.

“Customers totally get the idea, having seen posts online and from visiting other coastal areas that had adopted the same policy,” says Weiler. “Also, I know of several other establishments in town that have gone strawless, or use paper straws, so we weren’t entering uncharted territory.”

Walker Loden of Madison took yet another approach to help. The store offers “4Ocean” bracelets that are made from 100% of recycled materials, and the purchase of each helps remove pounds of trash from the ocean and coastline beaches.

“It’s up to the consumer to drive this movement,” says Wolcott. “If you start to look around your house and your everyday life, you may be floored at how much plastic there really is. If each of us just takes notice and uses one less bag or one less straw every time we are given the opportunity, imagine how much change we could make.”

The Town of Madison has also gained praise for its efforts, by being designated a “Sustainable CT Community” at the bronze level in October 2018. (To learn more on this, visit sustainablect.org.)

Now the Madison Chamber PR Committee has launched its campaign that businesses are welcome to use – Turn the Tide on Plastic, which is an evolution of campaigns seen in other coastline communities. The campaign offers 8.5×11 poster for store windows, 5.5×8.5  posters for counters, jpg graphics to use in promotions or on social media, and more to come (like euro stickers!). The posters/images are available in this post, on the Chamber’s facebook page, or by calling the Chamber.

Is your business helping to reduce plastic use or otherwise helping the planet? If so, let us know how – we’d be happy to add to this post! Email collins@shorepublishing.com!

Seen below, Madison Beach Hotel explained their plan with cards on tables, Walker Loden offers 4Ocean bracelets to help remove trash from the ocean, the Clam Castle prefers paper to plastic, and Moxie says skip the straw!