Column: The final straw

Published 8:06 am Sunday, December 1, 2019

While I was working towards my bachelor’s degree in marine science, I applied for a part-time job at a local golf course. I was living in Myrtle Beach, after all. Golf courses are like a hot commodity in that town.

After being hired and filling out all the necessary paperwork, I came in for my first day of training. As my boss was explaining the job duties to me, something caught my eye on the front counter. It was a little sign promoting the ban of plastic straws. Boy, was I excited.

Marine science is a broad term. I learned about ecology, biology, chemistry, physics and much, much more while in school. My favorite portion of our lectures was when my science teachers would go off on tangents about conservation. Let’s face it, the ocean and conservation go hand-in-hand. Banning plastic straws seemed huge for the livelihood of our waters.

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While I was reading the little flyer that explained why our golf course was choosing to go straw-less, I glanced over to see my boss handing a to-go tray full of food and plastic silverware to a customer. In that moment, look on my face must have said it all.

After watching that viral video, the one where a straw gets drawn out of a sea turtle’s nostril, I was mortified. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. It seemed like one by one, stores, markets, restaurants and massive corporations were turning against plastic straws. Starbucks, Hyatt, Hilton and many more were jumping on the straw-free bandwagon. Things, for once, seemed to be on the right track for the environment.

After witnessing what seemed like the biggest hypocrisy I had come to face-to-face with, I was torn. Our world was making progress; we were trying to make up for the harm we have caused to our planet. But, sadly, I think we missed the point.

Teaching a society new tricks may be the most difficult feat anyone could come try and accomplish. Changing how we live, that may be impossible. Small steps are necessary to make a big change. Banning straws, that’s just the very beginning.

I was mad that day, standing there at the counter, watching progress go down the drain. It took me a minute to realize that these problems, the pollution of our oceans, global warming, ocean acidification and everything else, they’re going to take a long time to fix. They may never get fixed. It’s a hard pill to swallow.

But, alas, we are recognizing, as a world, things we can do to help. Choosing to not use plastic straws does help. Recycling helps. Using paper bags instead of plastic bags helps.

Instead of being bitter about the plastic forks and knives I saw going out of our kitchen at the golf course, I saw the banning of plastic straws as a tiny victory.

We cannot just stop there, however. Plastic is in practically everything we use on daily basis. Soap containers, freezer bags, makeup wipes and most of our clothes contain some form of plastic. It is so important to reuse and recycle for this reason alone.

We are a long, long way from overcoming this threat to our world. Minor adjustments to our life, like using a metal straw instead of a plastic one, are going to make a huge difference in the end. This plastic battle is far from over, but progress is in the works.

Call me an optimist, but I have faith this world will slowly change its ways and a brighter, cleaner, bluer future is ahead.

Danielle Puleo is a staff writer for The Coastland Times. Reach her at