Invasion of the Plastic Lollipop Sticks
Although over 8,156 miles apart, what do beaches in southeast Florida and New Zealand have in common?
Besides sand and the sea – would you believe it if we told you there was an abundance of plastic lollipops washing up on both shores?
Here in south Florida, so many plastic lollipop sticks have been washing ashore that recently Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s (LMC) conservation department was prompted to take a closer look at these single use plastic items. What we found was surprising; 452 plastic lollipop sticks on a third of a mile of beach in only 7 days. After examining these lollipops, the Center found that most of the lollipops were from the brand Chupa Chups.
The Issue With Lollipop Sticks
For comparison purposes, LMC also counted the number of plastic straws, stirrers and eating utensils found on that same beach. These plastic items are among the five most commonly reported from beach cleanups worldwide. Plastic lollipop sticks were three times more abundant than plastic forks, spoons and knives, and nine times more than the number of plastic straws and stirrers collected. We are able to differentiate lollipop sticks from other plastic items such as straws or stirrers because of the holes punched in one side of the plastic so that the candy can stay attached to the stick.
This single-use plastic item is not only littering our beaches, but also poses a severe threat to sea turtles and other marine life when it enters our oceans. Plastic in the marine environment will never go away, instead it breaks down over time into smaller and smaller pieces which many marine creatures mistake for food. Some of the sticks found even had barnacles attached, meaning they spent some time in the ocean and may not be from local beachgoers.
Plastic lollipop sticks are also being reported on beaches in other parts of the world, even as far as New Zealand. LMC has begun discussions with conservationists in New Zealand to learn more about the extent of their own lollipop problem.
LMC is committed to minimizing the abundance and impact of single use plastic items in the marine environment. In 2018, a video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw lodged in its nostril went viral on social media, igniting worldwide efforts to eliminate plastic straws, including our own “Straw Free with LMC” campaign. It is our hope that we will not need new documentation on the detrimental impacts plastic lollipop sticks have on marine life before this single use item is recognized as something we can all live without.
This World Ocean Month, take action to improve the health of our planet by encouraging lollipop and other candy manufacturers to use sustainable sticks and wrappers. By making mindful choices when purchasing products, you can help create a more sustainable world. When selecting items, such as lollipops, check to see if other more sustainable alternatives are available, like brands that use cardboard sticks or biodegradable wrappers! Additionally, increasing public awareness to the problem will promote and encourage efforts to eliminate plastic lollipop sticks as debris. We have also attached information on how you can help LMC if you are interested in collecting even more data on lollipop sticks in our oceans.
Loggerhead Marinelife Center. Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) is a nonprofit sea turtle research, rehabilitation and educational institution that promotes conservation of ocean ecosystems with a focus on threatened and endangered sea turtles. The Center features an on-site hospital, research laboratory, educational exhibits and aquariums, and also operates the Juno Beach Pier, which hosts world-class angling and sightseeing. Situated on one of the world’s most important sea turtle nesting beaches, Loggerhead Marinelife Center is open daily and hosts over 360,000 guests free-of-charge each year. The Center’s conservation team works with 90 local and international organizations across six continents to form partnerships and share conservation initiatives and best practices that are core to its mission of ocean conservation. The Center is expanding and has launched its Waves of Progress capital expansion campaign, designed to accelerate and amplify LMC’s conservation and education impact. For more information, visit www.marinelife.org or call (561) 627-8280.
Public Relations and Engagement Specialist