Ending Plastic Pollution in Bali: Reusable Bags and Straws

Following a stroll on a lovely, yet plastic-strewn, Balinese beach, Glenn Adams and daughter Gaia Shekhinah set out on a mission. The two formed The Last Straw, a campaign that encourages island businesses to end their use of plastic straws and embrace reusable alternatives.  The two spoke enthusiastically about their efforts, and their next plan to tackle plastic bag pollution.

What is the ultimate goal of The Last Straw campaign?

“Our goal is to end the unnecessary use of plastic straws in Indonesia and the world. Straws are really not needed in most drinks, so we ask that eco-minded consumers use only reusable straws – and support the campaign by letting restaurants know about alternatives. We’d also like to see restaurants, hotels and bars offer reusable straws such as glass, bamboo, stainless steel, or disposable papaya stems, instead of plastic.”

How many bars, restaurants and hotels has the movement reached to this point?

“We’ve reached over 100 so far, and the campaign is growing.”

What was the initial response to your plan to replace plastic straws with glass, metal, etc.?

“We went to White Sands Beach in Candidasa and took photos of the plastic straws that washed up on the beach, and collected over 30 in less than 10 minutes. So, as a test run we decided to gift each restaurant reusable straws. We had a lot of fun giving them away, and the owners loved the idea – and our blessings for a plastic straw-free Bali. We knew other restaurants that could afford to buy them would love the idea, too.”

How many plastic straws do you estimate your campaign has potentially removed from the local waste cycle?

“We’ve estimated that number based on the following equation: If a restaurant serves 50 drinks with plastic straw each day, and is open 6 days a week (312 days a year), they’d use 15,600 straws annually. Some restaurants serve more than 50 drinks and some less, but we took an average based on a friend’s restaurant. So, given that we have straws in about 100 restaurants in our area, that’s 100 restaurants at 15,600 drinks a year, which equals 1,560,000 plastic straws. That’s a lot of plastic that will not be used.”

What are some of the environmental dangers posed by this plastic waste?

“It has been shown that many sea creatures have died from plastic in the oceans. According to Emma Snowden, litter campaigns officer with the Marine Conservation Society, plastic is a huge problem for our marine wildlife and makes up over 60 percent of all the litter we find on beaches, particularly single use plastic such as bags. She says that plastic straws make up a small proportion of all this litter, but if everyone took responsibility to dispose of their litter correctly in the first place it would help massively.”

Do you have any plans to take The Last Straw campaign to other parts of the world, or to expand into other products and alternatives?

“We’ve actually been looking for distributors for our straws in other countries, and would love for people to contact us. We’ve even come out with a line of positive affirmation straws so people can energize their drinks with sayings that make them feel good.”

How can people get their hands on these sustainable straws, and learn more about The Last Straw campaign?

“Being passionate about the idea is important, and we’d love to team up with anyone who wants to end plastic straws in their own community. They can visit us on Facebook, like our page and request to purchase the straws. However, right now we can sell only wholesale in orders of 36 pieces, and retail in Bali.”

What have your greatest challenges been throughout the campaign?

“Many people think that the glass straws can break easily, but they’re actually made of high-grade borosilicate glass and are very strong.”

Are there any other local environmental or food issues you would like to see the Balinese community tackle?

“Plastic bags are a very big problem in Bali, and we’ve started a buy one-give one away reusable bag idea. The bags cover the water jugs and also can be used for laundry.”

Learn more

Last Straw website
Other anti-straw campaigns
Buy reusable straws

Ever consider silicone straws? Check prices here.

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