STRAW NO MORE
MOLLY STEER, 11, thinks that straws suck. When Molly realised that the world was using too much plastic she took action, focussing in on single-use straws. Molly's passion project 'Straw No More' has an worldwide impact that is impressive for anyone, let alone an 11yr old. Straw No More has people of all ages giving up straws and single-use plastics to stand beside Molly, proving that it's not just her who thinks that straws suck.
TOM DUNN: Who is Molly Steer?
MOLLY STEER: I’m just a typical kid. I have three siblings. I love animals and I love swimming. I live in Cairns and am very fortunate to spend a lot of time exploring the Great Barrier Reef. Being in the water and surrounded by such beauty makes me happy. And like most kids, I’m interested in my world around me. A lot of adults think that kids don’t know very much, but if they took the time to listen, they would see that we do.
TD: The idea for StrawNoMore came after watching the movie 'A Plastic Ocean'. What was it about that movie that made you want to make a change?
MS: The movie was pretty graphic. There were scenes with baby birds getting cut open to reveal hundreds of bits of plastic in its gut. And images of huge patches of plastic in the middle of the ocean and along remote and isolated beaches. It made me really sad. So I realised I needed to do something to help. On our drive home from the movie that night, I was talking to mum and telling her how I wanted to help somehow. Mum told me that the best way to start anything is to start small. Straws were the smallest plastic thing I could think of. I learned later that mum didn’t mean small things, she meant start the campaign small. But whatever, I went with straws and that has worked out pretty well!
TD: There's lots of single use plastics that pollute our oceans. What was it about straws in particular that caught your attention?
MS: Straws seemed to be something that - for most people - are just a luxury. I totally understand that some people need to use straws because of illness or injury. But for most people, it’s just a convenience. But, I got wondering why people who don’t sip their coffee or wine or beer through a straw, feel the need to sip a soft drink or milkshake through one. Straws seemed like a fairly simple change that a person could make to their life, which could be a stepping stone to look at other single use plastics they could quit.
TD: You've been doing some presentations, teaching others the importance of finding a better alternative to plastic straws. What do you enjoy about sharing your story?
MS: My mum always sings that Whitney Houston song “I believe the children are the future” And even though mum is being a goose when she sings it, the message is actually true. The future belongs to us kids, so it makes sense that we should have a say in how it’s being managed. Kids are more open to making change. We are things differently to adults. They see that plastic pollution is a problem and we want to be part of the solution. Mum says adults over complicate things. And as my mentor, Melati from Bye Bye Plastic Bags always says: “Kids may only be 25% of the population, but we are 100% of the future.”
TD: What's the hardest thing to get others to understand about ocean plastic?
MS: People often say “the mess isn’t coming from Australia, so why should we have to change our habits?” But the truth is, there’s no passport control on the oceans. The ocean doesn’t care where the rubbish has originated from. A straw tossed down the drain in Cairns can end up hitting a beach in New Zealand. Or a plastic bag in Indonesia can make its way to Hawaii. Plastic just floats around and harms animals and Coral. But because we have plastic in our waterways, right now 94% of tap water is contaminated with micro plastics. And that’s not just In developing countries. That’s in first world countries, including right here in Australia. We are literally eating and drinking plastic. And we shouldn’t be saying it’s someone else’s problem to fix. We are all in this together and we need to fight to protect this together.
TD: StrawNoMore has already had an incredible amount of support. Already 1090 schools (comprising of 720,000 students) 970 businesses, 7350 individuals and 9 local governments have pledged their support to StrawNoMore. How does it make you feel to know so many people support your idea?
MS: It’s so awesome to see so many people are so passionate about tackling this problem.
TD: With so much support for your cause at such a young age; has StrawNoMore given you the confidence that you can make a positive impact on the world? What would you tell others,. your age or older, if they had their own idea to help the world?
MS: Early on in the campaign, a very kind person said to me: Be The Mosquito. She explained that mosquitoes are only small, but have you ever tried to ignore a mosquito when it’s buzzing around you? So I am on a mission to tell all the kids I meet to be the Mosquito. Start dreaming. Start talking. Start doing. Start buzzing and be annoying!! Because the future belongs to us kids and our dreams.
TD: Being so young and doing so much, are you always happy to take on more presentations etc. or does it sometimes feel like you just get more homework than everyone else?
MS: Sometimes I get bored with having to practice to do speeches. Just like any other kid might get bored with having to do piano practice or swimming practice. And it is a juggle having to fit this in with my other jobs at school and at home. But I know that every new group I speak to means more people become aware of StrawNoMore and that makes it worth it.
TD: What is your biggest goal for StrawNoMore?
MS: One day, I’d like to see the whole world follow in the footsteps of England. They have just made a law meaning that single-use plastic straws are only available in Chemists. As I said before, I totally understand that some people with disabilities need to use them. So it makes sense that they should be able to get them from the chemist as part of their health care.
TD: What is the next big step for StrawNoMore? How do you start to move closer to that goal?
MS: StrawBassadors are the next focus. It was an idea that came to mum when I was speaking at an event one day. The speaker after me was Andy Ridley, who was the founder of Earth Hour and now has Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef. Andy said “If only there were ten thousand Molly’s.” When mum heard that, she said she immediately knew that we had to enlist an army of helpers. So we came up with the idea of StrawBassadors. Strawbassadors are kids - just like me, who are fed up with plastic pollution. Ordinary kids who have an extraordinary mission: to help save the planet from suffocating in plastic. I would love to see a STRAWBASSADOR in every school in Australia showing their friends an alternative to plastic straws. Going our into their local communities and asking businesses to make better choices. Speaking to the Mayors and Councillors in their towns and creating change. We have had about 200 join up so far, and I want more!
TD: What can we expect to see from Molly Steer in the next few years?
MS: Earlier this year, I asked ScoMo to introduce Straw NoMore Into Parliament House in Canberra. He said he would support that. So now he’s been voted back in as Prime Minister, I’m going to make sure he comes through with that promise. Late last year, a motion was passed at the Local Government Association of Queensland that all the Councils in Queensland will follow Cairns and adopt the StrawNoMore motion by 2020. I’d like to see Parliament House single-use plastic free by the end of the year, so that it’s setting a good example for the other states.
Enjoying the interviews? Want to read more?
Keep the interview series alive by making a small contribution.