They’re the things we get by the fistful in our takeout orders and the same things we buy in bulk when we have more guests over for dinner than we care to wash dishes for. But disposable plastic cutlery, like single-use plastic straws, are hurting marine life and jeopardizing the oceans.
Every year, Ocean Conservancy has led world-wide coastal cleaning efforts and taken advantage of the collected debris to take a closer look at what the main polluters are. Last year’s cleanup was joined by over a million volunteers and plastic utensils were the fourth most-common polluter to be collected. The first three were cigarette butts, food wrappers, and plastic straws and stirrers, followed by plastic beverage bottles.
The nonprofit has been keeping track of plastic utensils as their own category since 2013, but this is the first time they have emerged as one of the most commonly collected items. Plastic forks, spoons, and knives pose a big threat to marine life because sea critters like seabirds and turtles often mistake them for food. Senior director of OC’s Trash Free Seas program, Nicholas Mallos, makes a connection with plastic straws: “In addition to skipping the straw, we hope people see this and choose to quit the cutlery, too – by bringing their own when planning to eat on the go.”