A single plastic straw seems harmless, but the damage it is doing to the oceans and the creatures who reside within has spurred environmental advocate Joanne Samsumdar to take on the herculean task of eliminating its use locally.
Samsundar has started a petition to ban the use of single straws in TT. The former Environmental Management Authority (EMA) employee said she the defining moment for her was when she saw the distress of a turtle with a straw in its nostrils.
She said she also found the time was right when Government moved to ban the use of styro foam. She initially intended to get 10,000 signatures for her to take to Government to effect environmental changes. However, in the past two months since she started the petition it has amassed over 14,000 signatures. Samsundar said the signatures and comments from the public are very encouraging and she intends to attract more signatures before moving ahead.
Samsundar, who is now employed in health and safety with Massy Energies, said her work at the EMA gave her an understanding of the widespread destruction of the environment and the appreciation that action had to be taken individually, collectively and consistently.
Samsundar is affiliated with global organisations advancing the elimination of plastic pollution and wanted to embark on a personal project to protect and save the environment
“What caught my eye was the video of the turtle which showed the straw being pulled out of the nostrils of the turtle. Some time later I took my children to the food court at Grand Bazaar and the person serving us placed four straws in my bag even though I did not ask for them and bought only two drinks.”
On her return home, she made the decision to focus on the elimination of the single use of straws.
“Because the truth is we don’t need straws. You cannot do anything with them. Straws are not recyclable. Straws have no commercial value, no economic value. The fact is approximately 437 million to 8.3 billion plastic straws are on the entire world’s coastlines. Using plastics and straws is really pollution by design.”
Samsundar said she and her family have made a radical change in their lifestyles, using bamboo straws as an alternative and if she could get a few others to do the same then she would have achieved her goal.
She intends to take her no straw request to bars, restaurants and other outlets where they are heavily utilised.
Taking a holistic approach to banning straws, Samsundar said she will use social media platforms at the moment to educate the public.
“The most important issue in TT is the lack of awareness, because people are not aware they feel they don’t have choices and continue with bad habits and practices.”
She said she will visit schools, corporate offices and use whatever platform is available to spread awareness.
Samsundar is encouraging people who have not yet signed the petition to do so by going to https://www.facebook.com/Ban-single-use-plastic-straws-231052924403580.