Molly Steer’s straw campaign aims to stop the suffering and torture of sea creatures. (Supplied: Straw No More)
A 10-year-old girl has helped convince a local government on the doorstep of the Great Barrier Reef to phase out using plastic straws in its council operations for the first time in Queensland.
The Cairns Regional Council today unanimously agreed to set a goal of removing straws and other single-use plastics, and to look at supporting local businesses to make the same change.
The council will also encourage its markets, events and functions to eventually eliminate straws.
Cairns girl Molly Steer has been running her Straw No More campaign for about a year and has already convinced more than 90 schools in Australia and overseas to do away with drinking straws.
Today’s decision by the Cairns Regional Council was her biggest win yet.
“I feel very achieved and proud of myself,” Molly said after the meeting.
“I don’t really care how long it takes, I just want animals to stop dying and the world to stop dying.
“My mum helped me a lot with making a lot of speeches … I’ve had to do a lot of speeches.”
Plastic straws can be deadly for reef animals, including turtles, and plastic in the ocean also kills coral.
One scientific study found corals in contact with plastic are much more likely to be diseased.
In January, more than 30 tourism operators in Cairns and Port Douglas signed-up to ban plastic straws at businesses within the Great Barrier Reef.
Founder of another group — The Last Straw — Nicole Nash, who is also a marine biologist, said plastic straws were ending up in the bellies of turtles and other marine life.
Cairns one of the first in Asia-Pacific with plastic straw ban
Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said while change would not happen overnight, the decision was momentous.
“We’ve got this greatest reef in the whole world sitting off our coast,” he said.
“It is also a critical part of our future … our future very much hinges a lot on tourism.”
He said he hopes it encourages change across the entire city.
“There will be a lot of business people who are currently using straws who will say ‘We’re going to follow that example too’,” Cr Manning said.
“This will be the end of the straw — Molly’s certainly very committed for a 10-year-old and I think she’s got a job for life, so that’s just wonderful to see.”
The campaign is backed by not-for-profit group Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef (CGBF).
CGBF founder Andy Ridley said Cairns was one of the first cities in Australia — and probably in the Asia-Pacific — to go this far in terms of straws but also single-use plastics.
“That’s a really good piece of leadership,” Mr Ridley said.
“There’s a whole lot of hotel chains that are already doing it … I think there’s over 100 boat operators who have gone straw-free.
“Just one bar in Cairns has [saved] 240,000 straws a year … so you can already see results.”
He said he hoped today’s meeting would lead to meaningful change.
“It’s very hard to make a big announcement and then not do it,” Mr Ridley said.