The Last Straw


Single use plastics, such as drinking straws, are entering our oceans at an enormous rate. In the United States alone we use 500 million straws per day. That’s enough straws to wrap around the earth 2.5 times a day.

We all contribute to this problem, so every one of us can make a difference. Make a pledge today to reduce your use of single-use plastics and refuse plastic drinking straws.


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  • Chevron down MORE ON THE LAST STRAW
  • In keeping with our mission to protect the oceans through science and advocacy, The Last Straw is our conservation campaign to raise awareness about single-use plastics, focusing on plastic drinking straws.

    Straws are one of the most common marine debris items found during beach clean-ups on Maui and around the world. The oceans are being polluted, and marine wildlife killed and injured, by something that’s used just once and for mere minutes.

    Plastic (in straws and other products) never truly biodegrades; it just breaks up into smaller pieces called micro-plastics. In fact, every piece of plastic ever created still exists today.

    We all contribute to the problem, and we can all take action to turn the tide on plastic pollution. You can start by refusing a straw. Whether at your favorite café, restaurant or bar – let them know “No straw, thank you!” and tell them why. Also ask them to ban plastic straws or at least dispense them only upon request.

    For those who need or want to use straws, more non-plastic alternatives than ever are available in stores and online, including straws made from paper, stainless steel, glass and bamboo.   

    Pacific Whale Foundation stopped using straws on our PacWhale ecotour vessels in 2015 and we are currently working on a long-term solution to replace or process our compostable plastic cups. Our Maui locations and online Ocean Store carry a range of reusable straws, as well as other high quality, eco-friendly products. For more information on our environmental commitment, click here

  • Chevron down FACTS & FIGURES

    • 500 million straws a day are used in the United States alone – enough straws to wrap around the earth 2.5 times or fill 125 school buses every day (International Coastal Cleanup Report, Ocean Conservancy, 2017).
    • Over 8 million tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans every year (Jambeck et al., 2015).
    • By the year 2050, scientists project the oceans will contain more plastic than fish (MacArthur et al., 2016).
    • 90% of seabirds (Wilcox et al., 2015) and 30% of sea turtles (Schuyler et al., 2013) have been found with plastics in their stomachs. 86% of all turtle species are affected by plastics (Schuyler et al., 2013). 
    • 80-90% of the world’s marine debris is made from plastic. There is no way to safely remove the vast majority of the plastic already in the ocean (Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection, 2015).
    • Plastic straws are one of the top 10 items picked up during beach clean-ups worldwide. In the last 25 years, over 6 million straws have been removed during annual U.S. beach clean-ups (International Coastal Cleanup Report, Ocean Conservancy, 2017).
    • Chemicals from plastics can be harmful to our health. Plastics contain known carcinogens and endocrine disrupters that cause direct toxicity, even leaching from plastic containers to food (Stover et al., 1996).
    • Packaging and containers account for 23% of the waste in America or 39 million tons per year. Less than 14% of plastic packaging actually gets recycled (Environmental Protection Agency, 2010).
    • Only certain types of plastic can be recycled, and only a certain number of times before being discarded into the environment.  (Stover et al., 2010).
    • Even “biodegradable” or compostable plastics can only be broken down when conditions are perfect, which include oxygen, light and pressure in an industrial composting facility (United Nations Environment Programme, 2015).
    • Plastic does not biodegrade in a landfill, and not all states and not all countries have industrial composting facilities, so even “biodegradable” plastics are discarded like regular trash (United Nations Environment Programme, 2015).


    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2010. Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2010. United States Environmental Protection Agency Solid Waste and Emergency Response Report, Washington, DC. 12 p.

    Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), 2015. “Sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment: a global assessment” (Kershaw, P. J., ed.). (IMO/FAO/UNESCO-IOC/UNIDO/WMO/IAEA/UN/UNEP /UNDP Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection). Reports and Studies. GESAMP No. 90, 96 p.

    Jambeck, J.R., Geyer, R., Wilcox, C., Siegler, T.R., Perryman, M., Andrady, A., Narayan, R. and Law, K.L., 2015. Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science, 347(6223), pp.768-771.

    MacArthur, D.M, D. Waughray, and M. Stuchtey, 2016. The New Plastics Economy Rethinking the future of plastics. 2016. World Economic Forum. 34 p.

    Ocean Conservancy, 2017. International coastal cleanup report 2017. 24 p. 

    Schuyler, Q., Hardesty, B.D., Wilcox, C. and Townsend, K., 2014. Global analysis of anthropogenic debris ingestion by sea turtles. Conservation biology, 28(1), pp. 129-139.

    Stover, R.L., Evans, K., and Pickett, K. 1996. Report of the Berkeley plastic task force. Ecology Center Plastic Task Force, Berkeley, CA. 48 p.

    United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 2015. Biodegradable Plastics and Marine Litter. Misconceptions, concerns and impacts on marine environments. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi. 33 p.

    Wilcox, C., Van Sebille, E. and Hardesty, B.D., 2015. Threat of plastic pollution to seabirds is global, pervasive, and increasing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(38), pp.11899-11904.

  • Chevron down WHAT YOU CAN DO
  • Here are some things you can do to help keep plastic straws and other single-use plastics out of the ocean.

    REDUCE the amount of single-use plastic in your household and make more eco-friendly choices.

    REFUSE to use plastic straws and ask your local restaurants and businesses to ban plastic straws or dispense them only upon request.

    USE ALTERNATIVES to plastic straws such as paper, stainless steel, glass and bamboo – and encourage others to do the same.

    REUSE plastic products whenever possible.

    RECYCLE plastic products whenever possible.

    PLEDGE to reduce your consumption of single-use plastics by signing our online form.

    SHARE your commitment and stories of pollution solutions with #ReuseOrRefuse.


    • Click here to spread the word to your Facebook friends.
    • Add the custom ‘Reuse or Refuse’ photo frame to your Facebook profile or other photos.
    • Get a reusable bamboo straw and set of utensils when you make a donation to Pacific Whale Foundation’s research, education and conservation programs. You can also get reusable straws from our Maui locations or online Ocean Store.
    • Wear our exclusive, custom-designed Refuse or Reuse t-shirt and look awesome while sharing this important conservation message. Available in a variety of styles, colors and sizes. Click here to purchase.
    • Join us on a beach clean-up or do one on your own to help keep plastic straws and other marine debris off our beaches and out of the ocean.
  • Chevron down RESOURCE KIT
  • Please click on the links below to download and share.

  • Chevron down MORE RESOURCES
  • Some Reusable Straw Products Available Online

    Ocean Store

    Aardvark Straws (paper)

    Eco-Tribe  (bamboo)

    The Last Straw (stainless steel)

    RawNori (stainless steel)


    Strawless Ocean Challenge

    Challenge your friends and followers on social media through this collaborative campaign by Lonely Whale Foundation.


    Video: ‘A Plastic Ocean’ film trailer


    Video: Sea Turtle with Straw Up Its Nostril 

    WARNING! Contains graphic content



    By Request Only

    Adopt a “straw upon request” policy to only offer straws when customers ask for them.

    Paper Straw Analysis

    Check out this easy to use template that helps restaurants and other businesses analyze the costs and benefits of switching from plastic to paper straws.


    Show your commitment to the environment by switching from plastic to bio-degradable eco-friendly paper straws. We recommend Aardvark Straws. Share your success on social media using #RefuseOrReuse

    Become an ‘Ocean Friendly Restaurant’ 

    A Surfrider Foundation program recognizing restaurants that reduce plastic waste and implement ocean-friendly practices.

  • Chevron down BUSINESS PARTNERS