Floridians #StartWith1Thing and Take a Stand Against Plastic Pollution

posted: 10/10/15
by: Danny Clemens
Sea turtle swimming stock photo
Rich Carey/iStock

Growing up in Florida, Julie Featherston always had a deep connection with the ocean.

"At age 11, I watched as baby sea turtles emerged from the sand and made their way to the ocean on Clearwater Beach. This is one of my most memorable moments from my summers spent there with my family," she tells Discovery.

Now an adult with a family of her own, Featherston continues to nurture her passion for the water. She regularly takes her son to the beach to pick up trash, although a recent excursion yielded a frightening find.

"We were out playing soccer on the beach and noticed quite a few [plastic straws] in our area, so we picked them up. In less than 10 minutes, we had a large handful," Featherston recalls.

A handful of plastic straws might seem harmless enough. There are no sharp edges or dangling pieces that could entangle a marine animal. What's the worst that could happen?

8 Trillion Small Pieces of Plastic Enter Aquatic Habitats Each Day

A video that went viral earlier this summer answers that question in a jarring -- yet truthful -- way. Researchers happened upon an endangered olive ridley sea turtle with a straw lodged in its nose. During an excruciating operation, the team was able to remove the straw from the animal, but not without causing the turtle obvious distress (warning: graphic content and strong language):

Sadly, this turtle's story is not unique. Marine animals regularly ingest plastic of all shapes and sizes. In recent studies, 90% of seabirds and 25% of fish sold in markets were found to have plastic particles in their gut.

It's not surprising that our plastic crisis has reached such alarming proportions. Each day, Americans discard nearly 500 million plastic straws. A horrifying amount of that waste makes its way into the ocean, where an estimated 5 trillion pieces of plastic -- enough to fill 600 jumbo jets -- float aimlessly.

The straws that Featherston and her son found were scattered not far from a popular beachfront restaurant. Well aware of the danger that the mountain of discarded plastic straws posed, she took to social media in an attempt to raise awareness about the haphazardly discarded plastic:

***Meeting has been moved to Wednesday, October 14 at Treasure Island City Hall, 1:30 pm!!!!***Caddy's, all of these...

Posted by Julie Featherston on Tuesday, September 29, 2015


The post quickly went viral, garnering thousands of shares and coverage from local news outlets. "The public has come out in droves in support of getting plastics off of our beaches! People from all over the country reached out to me in support of our cause," Featherston says.

Despite initial resistance, mounting pressure from Featherston and her supporters ultimately convinced the restaurant to provide straws only by request and to look into the possibility of replacing the remaining plastic straws with a biodegradable alternative.

Meet Ooho!, the Edible, Plastic-Free Water Bottle

"Our beach is raked daily. We take a lot of pride in keeping it clean. We actually have staff members whose sole purpose is to come out here and clean the beach," the eatery's associate manager explained in an interview with a local news station.

After swift success with one restaurant, supporters of Featherston's viral campaign, No More Plastics On Our Beaches, testified before local officials in Treasure Island, Florida. After that meeting, all local beachfront business voluntarily agreed to stop serving plastic straws, opting instead switch to serve paper straws:

Great News!!!! The paper straws have arrived. No more plastic straws here at Caddy's on the beach. Also, join us at...

Posted by Caddy's On The Beach on Saturday, October 17, 2015

"Ultimately, I would like to see this campaign through to the national level," she says. "I am encouraging everyone to start taking a stand against plastic with their local government. If we can make waves this quickly in Treasure Island, I have no doubt it can happen everywhere!"

Click here to find out how you can #StartWith1Thing and take a stand against plastic pollution.

Racing Extinction horizontal key art


On Wednesday, December 2nd, Discovery will present a global broadcast of Racing Extinction, a powerful eco-thriller that exposes issues of endangered species and mass extinction. Visit RacingExtinction.com for more information.


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