Plastic or paper? The truth about drinking straws

August 1, 2023 , 7:00 pm 8:00 pm EDT

PPC Advocacy and Engagement Manager Jackie Nuñez is joining BYO – US Reduces to discuss her work addressing plastic pollution with Plastic Pollution Coalition and The Last Plastic Straw. (Virtual meeting.)

Jackie Nuñez, Founder of The Last Plastic Straw and Advocacy Program Manager at Plastic Pollution Coalition, was selected to embark on leg 15 of the eXXpedition, an all-women voyage to document plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.

The eXXpedition, a 2-year all-female sailing mission, is an immense project. The women selected to participate, represent less than 3% of the global applicants from more than 10,000 submissions from over 100 different nationalities.

The main goals of the eXXpedition are:

1. Solution-focused science,

2. Communications surrounding the issue of single-use plastic, especially microplastics and its detrimental effect on the oceans, and

3. Building a network of inspired changemakers.

Unfortunately, due to the global pandemic, Jackie’s voyage, Leg 15 that was to set sail from Darwin to Perth, AU in August 2020 was cancelled, and in its place she participated in a virtual “voyage” to Tonga, the first leg of a series of voyages that set out to accomplish the original goals virtually.

“Although it was not the travel adventure and hands on learning, sailing, and bonding that we would have had sailing on a boat together out at sea, it was a great experience and I enjoyed the connections I made with the other incredible women from different parts of the world on our virtual ‘voyage’ to Tonga,” said Jackie Nuñez, Founder of The Last Plastic Straw and Program Manager at Plastic Pollution Coalition. “I especially enjoyed our 5th watch ‘Talanoa,’ with local representatives from the Kingdom of Tonga where we learned about the local challenges and the work they are doing to raise awareness and work towards solutions to plastic pollution.”

Via Emily Penn –Virtual voyage Tonga

11 multidisciplinary women from 8 nationalities came together online for a 24 hour eXXpedition Virtual Voyage over two weeks, exploring the causes of and solutions to plastic pollution, including scientific discovery, problem solving techniques and leadership development.

Hailing from Micronesia, USA, Austria, Canada, Belgium, Iceland, Switzerland and the UK, the crew included a journalist, designer, sustainability manager, artist, content producer, photographer, management consultant and the founder of a movement to end plastic straws. The six-part Virtual Voyage included many of the best parts of our at-sea missions and on-shore workshops, and over the course of the different “watches” at all hours of the day, the crew shared their stories, analysed microplastic samples live, took part in a SHiFT Solutions Workshop, developed their own action plans and learned from each other’s expertise. The first collaboration happened under 15 minutes into the first watch!

The crew also conducted waste management surveys in their part of the world as part of an ongoing research project in partnership with the University of Georgia. They recorded over 933 items in 7 different countries, and together they analysed and compared their findings from around the globe. Continuing a route around the world, on Watch 5 the women took part in a virtual “Talanoa,” joined with local representatives from the Kingdom of Tonga to talk about the local challenges of a global issue. OHAI Incorporated, The Commonwealth Secretariat and No Pelestiki led a thought provoking discussion, opening doors for opportunities to explore ways to work on addressing plastic pollution in the region. As the first virtual voyage comes to an end, it’s just the beginning for this crew who are joining our community of changemakers. They are already planning to use their new knowledge and connections to change legislation around single-use plastic foodware in California, create a Water Innovation Lab, make new artwork to reflect the state of plastic pollution in island nations, manage expeditions of their own in Iceland and much more! We can’t wait to see what they do next. 

Voyage 2: Fiji has already kicked off! Stay tuned for the next dispatch.

Join our global Coalition.

Straws film is now available for home viewing! Gather your family & friends and share “one of the 5 documentaries to make you rethink single-use plastic.”

Narrated by PPC notable Tim Robbins and featuring PPC members, the film is “both an educational resource and a call to action.” (For Public Screenings & Schools, learn more here on licenses.)

In order to watch, simply follow the steps below:
1. Click the link: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/straws/
2. Select the $2.99 streaming option
3. Sign in using Google or Facebook or VIMEO
4. Apply the code ‘PPC’ in the payment window
5. The video will be ready to stream

Join our global Coalition.

By Sandra Curtis

The buzz of anticipation was audible in the Brower Center theater awaiting the start of the evening’s program – Sea Change: From Plastic Straws to Local Laws on Wednesday, March 20.  The presenters did not disappoint, in fact, the crowd erupted in a standing ovation for the first presenters, ten year olds Sam (Domingo) and Fiona (Groth Reidy).  Students of Jacqueline Omania’s Zero Waste classroom at Berkeley’s Oxford School, their inspiring presentation chronicled the students involvement in passage of Berkeley’s groundbreaking Single Use Plastic and Waste Reduction Ordinance.   

The program featured some of the most passionate and persistent activists responsible for the strategy, language, surveying and implementation of Berkeley’s innovative ordinance, as well as those involved in the plastic pollution movement from gateway and global issues to health impacts.  The evening reflected the collective efforts of a grassroots movement begun almost ten years ago to stop plastic pollution.  It focuses on a system wide shift from disposable to reusables. The current disposable one is not only unsustainable, but unhealthy.

Dianna Cohen, Co-Founder and CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition, introduced Open Your Eyes, a short video laying the foundation for the global problem of plastic pollution, followed by Jackie Nunez, founder of The Last Plastic Straw, who introduced the Straws film.  Labelling plastic straws as the “gateway issue” into plastic pollution, Jackie has been credited with sparking a global movement towards action to eliminate single-use plastic straws.

The informative panel included:

Council Member Sophie Hahn (Berkeley City Council Member, District 5) who co-authored introduced and shepherded the ordinance.  She provided a brief background on why it was important to sponsor the ordinance and the specific elements included.

Martin Bourque (ED, Ecology Center), Berkeley’s local champion for all things waste related and in particular, this ordinance.  He gave the local history of how the ordinance evolved.

Miriam Gordon (Upstream Policy Director) – a passionate leader and policy wonk on source reduction for much of her career.  Working mostly out of the limelight, she focused on crafting strategy and writing the ordinance language.  

Samantha Sommer (Waste Prevention Program Manager, ReThink Disposable) – turned the idea for reduction into quantifiable data and demonstrable financial savings for businesses. Her team surveyed businesses and customers, collecting valuable opinion data on elements of an ordinance that would have support.

Jacqueline Omania (Green Educator Leadership award, Oxford Elementary School), a passionate third grade teacher who has been running a Zero Waste classroom for five years, inspiring students like Sam and Fiona.  She took issue with who inspires whom, insisting that the students inspire her.

Dr. Barbara Cohn (ED Child Health and Development Studies) – Berkeley epidemiologist doing seminal research on the effects of toxic chemical exposure across generations and co-principal investigator with Dr. Sandra Curtis (PPC) on ReThink Plastic.  She acknowledged how positive the impacts of the foodware ordinance will be on upcoming generations, reducing the health impacts from the chemicals in plastic in such diseases as cancer, diabetes, obesity, and infertility.  

The audience engaged in a Q&A with the panelists, including Dianna Cohen and Jackie Nunez. The panelists engaged in Q&A among themselves. Guests circulated with the panelists, continuing more in-depth conversation while enjoying light desserts and drinks.

“Live Plastic Free” stainless steel cups were generously provided by John Borg of Steelys Drinkware.  

Notable PPC member Wavy Gravy attended, as did a number of the PPC’s fiscal sponsor, the Earth Island Institute.

The David Brower Center generously co-hosted the event.

Helpful links:

  • Plastic Pollution Coalition’s video Open Your Eyes, narrated by Jeff Bridges.

  • STRAWS film trailer – For showing the STRAWS film with speaker Jackie Nunez, please email her at jackie@plasticpollutioncoalition.org.

  • Berkeley’s Ecology Center. – A great resource to help you start living plastic free.  And for a fun fact, listen to Pete Seeger’s If It Can’t Be Reduced, ©2008 Pete Seeger and Martin Bourque – the lyrics are just as relevant today as it was when written.  

  • For help crafting an ordinance for your town modeled on Berkeley’s, contact Council Member Sophie Hahn here.

  • The work of many Coalition members has come to fruition this week with the BETA launch of the Global Legislative Toolkit for Plastic Pollution Reduction. Be among the first to explore and give feedback the toolkit, an online web-portal for policymakers and advocates to advance policies that reduce plastic pollution. The toolkit is the next step in working toward source reduction for plastic pollution globally.