Concerned SPI residents Carol Gluntz and Sally Robey recently reached out to the city to address a widespread environmental concern that they are passionate about. Gluntz, who patrols the beach as a volunteer for Sea Turtle, Inc., and Robey, a regular volunteer for the UTRGV Coastal Studies Lab as well as the SPI Birding & Nature Center, went to the Shoreline Task Force to address the issue of plastic straws on the beach.
After hearing their presentation, the women were encouraged to work with the Keep SPI Beautiful committee (KSPIB), who recently began working to address the same issue. KSPIB Chairwoman Susan Dalton invited the two to bring their presentation to their next meeting and to work with the committee, while task force members offered their support. Dalton said, “This is one that I think the environment needs, and I think that our island needs this.”
Litter remains a worldwide problem, not only with negative aesthetic effects, but more importantly, causing harmful impacts on the environment, particularly with regard to wildlife. Plastic is especially harmful as it takes hundreds of years to decompose. Many people have seen the recently circulating video showing a plastic straw lodged deep into the nostril of a sea turtle as well as other photos often fatal impact of litter on turtles, whales, dolphins, and more. KSPIB member Kat Lillie of Sea Turtle, Inc. said, “I see at my work. Single use plastic is just terrible for our environment in general.” Gluntz and Robey commended the City for the improvements made by their Anti-Litter Campaign, which was recently expanded with extra funding approved by the SPI City Council. However, after pickup many straws on the beach, the duo asked for their support in banning plastic straws on the Island.
Clayton Brashear of Clayton’s Beach Bar and Grill was at the task force meeting and chimed in on the subject saying, “If you said you’re going to ban plastic straws just like you did bags, we’d live with it.” He added “If you say he, we are not going to have any more plastic straws on South Padre Island, society would adapt.” He noted that the business has looked into using the paper straws, though he had concerns about their durability in beverages.
KSPIB members also expressed their support of the project, but were not sure a complete ban of plastic straws would be the best way to begin the process. Suggestions for improvement included asking and encouraging local business owners to try using paper straws rather than plastic or to participate in the Last Plastic Straw campaign, which encourages business owners to provide straws only upon request and for consumers to request “no straw” at bars and restaurants. Gluntz and Robey were selected by the KSPIB Community to serve on a subcommittee, along with Shoreline Task Force and Surfrider Foundation President Rob Nixon, and KSPIB member Julie Berman. The subcommittee is expected to bring ideas for further action at the next KSPIB meeting August 11.

By Abbey Kunkle