Straw Wars Comes to Winter Park

Let This Be the Last Straw!

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

Straw Wars Comes to Winter Park

Guest Columnists Dr. Leslie Poole and Charley Williams

Think globally, act locally. So, Winter Park, for the moment, Think Locally.

A Garbage Patch the Size of Texas

You may have been reading about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch–an area the size of Texas (or France, your choice). It’s located between California and Hawaii and contains an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic. This is the planet’s largest mass of plastic. The crisis is reflected in the photos you see of dying marine life – birds, sea turtles, whales and sharks, trapped in this plastic grip of death. They ingest tiny pieces of plastic that interfere with their digestive systems. Humans are not exempt. Scientists are finding plastic microfibers in the very water we drink.

Plastic Straws – One Culprit

Surprisingly those thin plastic straws in bars and restaurants – through which we sip without giving it a second thought — play a culpable role. And it’s something we can control.

According to the U.S. National Park Service, Americans use 500 million straws a day. Most never make it to the recycling bin.

WP Is Making Progress

Don’t get us wrong — Winter Park is making progress in fighting the plastic plague. Barnies is eliminating styrofoam carryout containers in favor of cardboard. Starbucks has devised a sippy-cup container with a wider mouth for its cold drinks, which negates the need for a straw. Many Winter Park establishments have a policy that if you bring your own reusable container – like a coffee cup — they will give you a discount. That’s progress. Be sure and thank them.

But at countless other establishments, plastic straws come with the territory. It’s a habit.

Just Say No

What to do? Change that habit! We have the power. It’s simple. Just say “No”.

Instruct the bartender or server not to bring you a straw and suggest the establishment abandon the use of plastic straws altogether. You have to do it up front when you sit down or are placing your order. Once that straw goes into the glass or is brought to the table, even if it is wrapped, it goes straight from the table into the trash. Nothing gained.

Leave It to Beaver?

The global good news: This year, scientists are prepared to launch the world’s first machine to clean up this mess. It was designed by a teenager no less. More at

All Boats Rise on this Tide

Kudos to those Winter Park businesses which are leading the way. If you have new information or an experience, please share with the Voice. We’d all like to know. Awareness is the brightest path to long-term solutions.

Lead by example, learn by observing. All boats rise on this tide.

Read more:
National Geographic “Straw Wars: The Fight to Rid the Oceans of Discarded Plastic” (April 12, 2017; updated February 23, 2018)

U.K. takes a leadership role: “The Queen Declares War on Plastic….”

Dr. Leslie Poole is assistant professor of environmental studies at Rollins College

Charley Williams is past president, League of Women Voters, Orange County

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    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

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9 replies
  1. Straw Poll says:

    Thanks. I’d rather have the straw and my health.

    To drink out of a glass at a restaurant with no straw, you would have to trust that the glass was COMPLETELY cleaned AND sanitized of all germs BEFORE they filled it and brought it to your table.

    Ever get a drink and notice lipstick or kind of a smear at the rim of the glass?

    Well, there are germs that you might never even notice, even if the glass LOOKED perfectly clean.

    So, I would strongly suggest taking the straw.

    There are all kinds of communicable diseases passed through the lips nowadays.

    Look it up.

    That’s WHY they give you a straw. Quality control to make sure EVERY glass is PERFECTLY clean before it arrives at your table costs too much. So it’s straws or take your chances on putting your lips where someone just put theirs when nobody washed the glass!

    If you get a paper cup with a straw from a fast food place, keep the straw too. You ever watch those people put the cover on the cups? You know for sure they washed their hands first?

  2. Cathy says:

    Straws do not keep someone from coming into contact with micro-organisms (germs) on or in the glass. The liquid that is in the glass picks up the germs and you ingest them straw or no straw. A servers hand on your cup if not clean can be a source of germs. The person who prepares your drink can possibly contaminate the drink. So people get over this obsession with extreme cleanliness. When I grew up we played outside in dirt and people were not applying hand sanitizers everywhere you looked. Dishwashers in restaurants did not sanitize their dishes.
    Micro-organisms in our body out number our native cells. We need a proper balance in order to survive. Autoimmune disease and allergies are on the rise and it is thought that because we do not expose ourselves to environmental germs our immune system gets all messed up and starts attacking our own cells. Peanut allergy case in point. So people stop using straws! It is a wasteful and harmful practice in more ways then one.

    • Not Taking Chances says:

      You wouldn’t kiss strangers at the bar all day long. But it’s the same thing if you put your lips on a glass they give you, and you have no idea if they cleaned the glass properly.

      There are illnesses people can get from swallowing germs that are bad for them, true.

      But, there are also diseases people can get from lip to lip contact. INCURABLE diseases That’s where the straw helps if you are going to accept a drink in a glass if you go out.

      • Toni Saunders says:

        We need to get over the extreme phobia about

        germs. We build immunity by exposure various

        bugs. Be reasonable & protect our environment

        from plastics in as many ways as possible.

  3. Carol Lindsey says:

    Yes. Take your own cup or consider purchasing some reusable stainless steel straws and carry them with you. Let’s all do our part and stop using single use plastic!

    Thank you for posting this important information Dr. Poole and Charley Williams!


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