Clearwater launches strawless challenge for businesses

- You get them with your water, your iced coffee, and your to-go drinks.  It’s estimated Americans use about 500-million plastic straws every day.  All those plastic straws we go through are now a top-10 polluter of the world’s beaches, hurting the environment and marine life.

“100,000 marine animals die every year from ingesting plastics, One million seabirds every year,” said Jana Wiggins, a volunteer with Suncoast Rise Above Plastics.

This summer, Clearwater is challenging local eateries, bars and cafés to cut down on straws by only handing them out when requested. 

It’s a habit servers at Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber and Bobby’s Bistro & Wine Bar are already used to.

“They begin to explain it to the customer, and at that point, I would say to you 90-percent of the time the customer says, 'You know what, I don’t need a straw,'” said Sheri Heilman.

Hundreds of people come through the doors each night, but only a handful of straws are used.  And even those aren’t plastic.

“This is not that difficult to do, this is not hard,” Heilman said.

The owners are passionate about the two restaurants' environmental impact, and over the last few years have stopped using a lot of products.

“These are biodegradable, and most of this stuff has been made from recycled material,” said Heilman.
You won’t find Styrofoam in the businesses, the to-go bags are reusable, and they’ve eliminated plastic as much as possible.

In January, the eateries became the first two in the city to be certified Ocean Friendly Businesses by Suncoast Rise Above Plastics.  It’s a title they’re proud of.

“This is the right thing to do, and once you get started you’ll become obsessed as well, and you’ll know that you feel good, your staff’s gonna feel great, your customers are going to love you,” Heilman continued. “We also have people coming in here solely because of us being involved in this movement, they come in and ask for a manager just to thank us."

Fort Myers Beach already has a straw ban in place, and recently St. Petersburg launched a campaign aimed at cutting back on single-use straws.

The Clearwater Strawless Summer Challenge is completely voluntary.  It starts June 1 and runs through August.

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