Seminole Tribe of Florida Bans Plastic Straws in Casinos
The Seminole Tribe of Florida, which owns Hard Rock International, announced a new policy to eliminate plastic straws in their casinos. The decision is part of an ongoing debate in the United States about the environmental impact of disposable plastic products.
When the state of California announced a new law that sought to eliminate plastic straws for environmental purposes, it drew praise from the left and mockery from the right. Now it appears that the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which owns 7 tribal casinos in Florida and a variety of commercial casinos elsewhere in the United States, is taking the initiative to remove plastic straws from their resorts.
Seminole Gaming announced this week that it would be making a shift to earth-friendly drinking straws by next month. The change will involve all of their Florida casinos, including Hard Rock locations in the Tampa area and in Hollywood, Florida.
Seminoles Adding Paper Take-Out Bags
Another shift the casino will be taking is from plastic take out bags to paper ones. The change in restaurant policies appears to be less drastic, as the company already complies with many common-sense ecological standards. According to Tracy Bradford, Seminole Gaming’s senior vice president of purchasing, all Seminole Gaming restaurants already use reusable, recyclable, or eco-friendly to-go containers.
Tracy Bradford said, “Seminole Gaming has a long history of sustainability programs, and we are pleased to add more earth-friendly straws and to-go bags to the list. As the gaming operation of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Seminole Gaming is proud to help make a difference in conscientious sustainability practices — it’s the right thing to do.”
The casino will still offer straws but instead of plastic ones you will have to ask for “durable, earth-friendly” straws instead.
Plastic Straws in Casino?
The statistics on plastic straws are astounding. More than 500 million plastic straws are used and discarded every day in the U.S. alone. In a single year, Americans throw away enough plastic straw waste to wrap the circumference of the earth 2.5 times. That does not take into account the rest of the world.
According to Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup data, plastic straws have consistently been on the Top 10, of items found. Though, In the last three years, they have managed to wedge their way into the number 5 spot.
George Leonard, the chief scientist for the Ocean Conservancy says, “The data from our 2017 international coastal cleanup and there were 643,000 plastic straws that were picked up around beaches and waterways all over the world.”
What’s So Bad About Plastic?
The reason plastic straws are a concern is the fact plastic is not biodegradable. Plastic does break down into smaller and smaller pieces, but these tiny pieces are ingested by marine and land animals. That, in turn, damages the food chain and leads to more scarcity of food for both humans and animals.
Recycling straws hardly seem the answer. Though there are some do-gooders out there that will recycle their used straws, the truth is that only a small percentage of straws make it to get recycled. The majority of plastic straws are too lightweight to make it through the mechanical recycling sorter.
Instead, they are often missed, because they drop through sorting screens and mix with other materials. Most often, they end up contaminating recycling loads or just ends up in a landfill.
Due to its chemical make-up, there is nothing in nature that biodegrades plastic. Waste management professionals can incinerate plastic straws, but that means humans will breathe in the toxic dioxins that are released into the air. Those toxins, after floating around, will eventually settle, often into our crops where we will once again ingest them later. Research has shown that plastic residue can be found in mother’s breast milk.
Marine Life at Risk
One of the keys issues behind the plastic straw movement is the effect the tiny things are having on our marine life. 80-90% of the trash found in our oceans is made from plastic. An area the size of the United States contaminates the central Pacific Ocean. Most of that trash field is plastic.
It is estimated, if something does not change, by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than there are fish.
Plastic straws end up in the ocean from litter on the beach, trash in our coastal communities, refuse blown out of trashcans, or transport boats, or other vehicles passing over water. Once they end up in rivers, streams, or even lakes, the plastic eventually ends up in the Ocean.
Why the Seminole Tribe Eliminated Plastic Straws
Seminole casinos, being located in Florida, might be making a bigger impact with this change than they even thought. Florida has over 1,300 miles of coastline, second among US states only to Alaska (8,000+ miles). That means Floridian businesses and residents can have the second-greatest impact on the plastic contamination issue – the most, when you consider that so few people live in Alaska.
When marine life ingests plastic, they have a 50% mortality rate. Birds and turtles are the most effected, as an estimated 71% of seabirds and 30% of turtles have been found with plastics in their stomachs. Once the plastic finds its way into the ocean, it never ends up dissolving. Instead breaks down into “microplastics”, which then gets ingested by fish and other sea life.
Plastic poses a threat to marine life, including the fish which are such a pivotal part of the food cycle. Once the global fish supply is gone, the entire food chain of Earth unravels. No living creature on the planet will be unaffected. Like the fish from Finding Nemo, who said “All drains lead to the ocean”, no matter where you are, your trash could still end up in our oceans.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida has had an indirect impact in making a change. Other tourist destinations that have also nixed plastic straws include Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, and Busch Gardens.