The last straw: Natick High School student achieves plastic straw ban – MetroWest Daily News

Natick High School junior Clay Napurano asked for it, and he got it – a ban on plastic straws in the school’s cafeteria. Now, he would like to see a statewide ban.

NATICK – Clay Napurano was determined to make it happen.

The Natick High School junior met with Rep. David Linsky, D-Natick, to discuss a possible statewide ban on plastic straws.

Linsky suggested Napurano focus his energy locally, so he met with school Superintendent Anna Nolin and Food Service Director Kristin Gentili to encourage them to eliminate plastic straws in the high school cafeteria.

The lobbying paid off when Natick High Principal Brian Harrigan last week banned them in the cafeteria, persuaded by Napurano’s argument they are bad for the environment.

“It was awesome to see the community come together, and make a change quickly,” Napurano said.

Harrigan said a handful of straws will remain in the cafeteria if a student wants one.

Roughly 4,000 straws are used monthly by Natick High and three of the district’s elementary schools – Lilja, Brown and Johnson – Gentili said.

Two thousand are ordered every six weeks for the district’s other elementary schools – Bennett-Hemenway and Memorial. The same total is ordered every six weeks for the Kennedy and Wilson middle schools. Each straw cost less than a penny, Gentili said.

Natick’s elementary and middle schools still offer the straws.

Napurano’s reasons for pursuing a ban include: plastic straws don’t biodegrade, and litter landfills and oceans; inconsistency – Natick bans single-use plastic bags, but gives away straws; and last year’s United Nations report that warned catastrophic environmental disasters by 2040, if greenhouse gases are not brought under control.

A video that went viral of a four-inch plastic straw removed from the nose of a sea turtle also caught Napurano’s attention.

“That was terrifying (to watch),” Napurano said.

This school year, Salem public schools replaced plastic straws with paper ones, and Napurano feels other school districts will take the same route, building momentum for a statewide ban.

State Rep. David Rogers, D-Cambridge, filed a bill this year that would prevent restaurants and other food establishments from giving single-use, plastic straws to customers, unless requested.

Clint Richmond, a Sierra Club of Massachusetts executive board member, said Rogers’ bill goes beyond a California ban that applies to all full-service restaurants, except fast food establishments. Rogers’ bill includes fast food.

“I am cautiously optimistic about the passage of the bill and look forward to strongly advocating for it and gaining support from my colleagues,” read a Rogers statement to the Daily News. “The bill is supported by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups and I also look forward to partnering with these organizations to advance the bill.”

Five Massachusetts communities ban plastic straws in licensed food establishments, according to Richmond – Chelmsford, Harwich, Lexington, Provincetown and Rockport – and more than 100 ban single-use plastic bags, including Natick.

That is a sign, Richmond believes, that residents are ready for a statewide ban on plastic straws.

Napurano held a metal straw while standing next to a carton of plastic ones in the Natick High cafeteria, before this week’s ban went into effect. Metal is reusable, and Napurano believes it’s a viable alternative to plastic. He also sees paper straws as an alternative.

Some disability-rights activists oppose a ban on plastic straws, arguing some children and adults have conditions that impair muscle control, like cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. They need plastic straws to drink liquids safely.

Napurano sees himself majoring in history in college and going to law school. Community service drives him, and he hopes a plastic-straw ban extends beyond the Natick High cafeteria.

“I have faith that our (Massachusetts) elected officials will ban plastic straws,” Napurano said.

Follow Henry Schwan on Twitter @henrymetrowest. He can be reached at [email protected] or 508-626-3964.