The grassroots group that wants to ban plastic straws in Cornwall – ANITH
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The grassroots group that wants to ban plastic straws in Cornwall

The grassroots group that wants to ban plastic straws in Cornwall

One conversation between a surfer and a businesswoman has led to a huge social media campaign to help clean up Britain’s polluted beaches.

Britain is experiencing a worrying rise in the amount of litter, particularly plastic, found on the seabed around its shores. 

In 2016 there’s been an average of 358 pieces of litter uncovered per square kilometre of seabed — a rise of 158% compared to the previous year — according to figures from .

In order to tackle this dramatic phenomenon that pollutes our shores and seas, a citizens’ group in Cornwall is campaigning to ban plastic straws across the English county’s bars and restaurants.  

“Final Straw Cornwall” started after a conversation between a surfer, James Neale, and 69-year-old businesswoman Pat Smith of Bosinver Farm Cottages. 


Smith was motivated to do something about plastic after watching the documentary A Plastic Ocean, in which the problem of plastic polluting beaches, littering the ocean floors, blocking seabirds’ stomachs and killing whales was on show in all its magnitude. 

And Cornwall, with its wild, rugged coastal beauty and its sense of community, was perfect for this experiment in environmental activism:

“The message of the film’s co-director Jo Ruxton was simple: we have to stop using single use plastics — plastic bags, throwaway coffee cups, straws, bottled water and the like – all of which are designed to be used once and thrown away, many of which end up in our oceans, where they will remain for eternity,” Smith told Mashable.

“Every piece of plastic ever produced is still on the planet, except those that have been burned.”

Along with Neale, the duo launched the campaign to sensitise individuals and encourage businesses in Cornwall to stop using single-use plastic straws. 


One can’t help but wonder: why straws? The answer is quite simple, because it’s a relatively easy task.

“I think it’s important to be honest and tell you exactly why I am campaigning — because it’s easy,” Neale says. 

He admits his head was buried in the sand on environmental issues, just like many people. 

“I wasn’t crippled by some saintly urge, quite the opposite. I found something that wasn’t overwhelming and thought; ‘Maybe this is something I could really help with.’ Plastic straws.”

Since the launch of the campaign, businesses are lining up to get involved, Smith and Neale say. 

Signups include The Lost Gardens of Heligan, prestige hotels such as The Scarlet and Bedruthan Hotel, and most recently Lusty Glaze Beach. “We are really confident of the 6,000 or so hospitality venues we have in Cornwall signing up and getting on board,” they say. 

Image: finalstrawcornwall

According to ITV, 8.5 billion straws are used in the UK every year.

So what to do if you want to help? 

Here’s a little memo:

If you’re an individual, stop using single-use plastic straws. If you’re offered one, politely hand it back and explain that you no longer accepting single-use, plastic straws and neither should they. If you’re a business, stop using single-use plastic straws, full stop. There are so many other alternatives and you’ll be playing a mighty role in changing Cornwall’s future.

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Anith Gopal
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