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Plastic straws have been found in the nostrils and stomachs of sea turtles, and in unsightly piles of pollution on beaches around the world.

Marine biologists thought they saw a worm stuck in this Costa Rican sea turtle’s nostril. It turned out to be a 4-inch plastic straw. (photos by Nathan J. Robinson)

Boulder restaurants are joining a worldwide movement to cut down the number of plastic straws used in restaurants or to eliminate them altogether.

In March, Taco Junky on the Hill hosted the kickoff celebration of the Boulder movement called “Suck the Straws out of Boulder.” The idea is to get restaurants to ask before giving a customer a straw, or simply not to make straws available at all. Other alternatives include providing compostable straws, or for those of us who physically must use straws or simply love them, finding reusable straws made of materials like glass, bamboo or stainless steel.

According to the website www.thelastplasticstraw.org, 500 million straws are used and discarded every day in the United States alone. That’s 175 billion a year filtering into landfills and littering our waterways and oceans—enough straws to wrap around the earth’s circumference 2.5 times.

The straw-free campaign began in 2010 when an environmentally conscious 9-year-old, Milo Cress of Burlington, Vt., got a local restaurant to adopt an “offer first” policy. His efforts have spread throughout the world, from Canada to London and South Korea to our own national parks. In 2013, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper proclaimed July 11 the state’s annual Straw Free Day, and the practice of not using straws is catching on with Boulder restaurant patrons.

For links to purchase reusable straws and other ideas related to the Be Straw Free campaign, visit ecocycle.org. For more about the “Suck the Straws out of Boulder” campaign, visit the group’s Facebook page.

–By Kay Turnbaugh