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Shedd Teams Up with Restaurants to Decrease Plastic Pollution

Restaurants Commit to Shedd the Straw on World Oceans Day

June 08, 2017

Plastic and foam debris floats in the waters of Lake Michigan, visible from the edge of a pedestrian path bordering the lake along Chicago's skyline.

Shedd Aquarium is teaming up with Chicagoland restaurants on World Oceans Day, June 8, to decrease Chicago’s contribution of plastic waste that winds up in our oceans and negatively impacts marine animals and plants. 20 Chicago-area restaurants (and counting!) are committing to Shedd the Straw today, opting to not serve disposable plastic straws with drinks.

These restaurants’ commitments are part of Shedd Aquarium’s new conservation challenge called Shedd the Straw, which hopes to inspire Chicagoans to remove single-use plastic straws from their everyday routine to reduce the amount of plastic pollution that enters our waterways. This could be as simple as saying “no thanks” to plastic straws provided free-of-charge in your drink or taking the added step to bring a reusable straw – like a glass straw from our collaborators at Strawesome – with you everywhere you go.

Restaurants that have committed to #SheddtheStraw on World Oceans Day:

Most-often used for convenience and provided free-of-charge, Americans use an estimated 500 million straws a day. Plastic straws do not biodegrade naturally in the environment and are also nearly impossible to recycle. Because most straw-users trash their plastic straws when done, every straw ever used most likely still exists on this planet, although they may have broken down into smaller pieces of plastic.

Over the years, our oceans have become the final stop for plastic, metal, cloth, rubber and wood from all over the world. In fact, scientists predict that if we don’t take action, the amount of plastics in our oceans will exceed the amount of fish, pound for pound, by 2050. 

A single plastic straw might not seem like much, but each one can add up to a big problem for our oceans, lakes and rivers. Wildlife such as fish, seals, sea lions, otters, seabirds and whales are harmed by plastics when they become entangled. Additionally, many animals mistake plastic trash for food, nibbling on it or ingesting it entirely.

No matter where you live in the world – inland or along the coasts – your choices can impact the animals in our oceans. This holds true for our community in Chicago, even though the ocean might seem far away.

Like a vast network of vessels and arteries, our rivers, lakes and streams channel water from higher elevations to lower ones. The water we love and play in flows in a giant counterclockwise swirl around Lake Michigan and ultimately flows eastward through Lakes Huron, Erie and Ontario. After making a 20-story plunge at Niagara Falls into Lake Ontario, our Great Lakes water exits through the St. Lawrence River and into the Atlantic Ocean. By choosing to #SheddtheStraw in Chicago, we can make a positive difference for our oceans.