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CARBONDALE — A Keep Carbondale Beautiful intern has made it her mission to reduce plastic straw waste in Carbondale.

Callie Dunkel, who will be a senior Southern Illinois University Carbondale this fall, first began working on the project in June.

“I care a lot about the environment and conservation and ways of making things better for the environment, so I was trying to think of something that would be simple and doable but would be able to make a change,” Dunkel said.

Plastic straws are often consumed by marine life once they wind up in the ocean, and they take hundreds of years to decompose in landfills. Several American cities have recently pledged to ban plastic straws, and Starbucks announced last week that it would phase them out by 2020.

“It’s just kind of a habit that people use them, and it’s an easy way to reduce waste. We can’t really recycle them because they’re just too small and they’re contaminated,” Dunkel said.

Dunkel has been approaching business owners in Carbondale and encouraging them to limit their use of plastic straws. She has been distributing signs for tables explaining that straws are available only on request because they are harmful to the environment.

Several downtown restaurants have agreed to offer straws upon request, including Reema’s Indian Cuisine, El Greco, Tres Hombres and Quatro’s Deep Pan Pizza, Dunkel said. Harbaugh’s Café and Longbranch Café and Bakery had already chosen not to offer straws to all customers.

In her pitch to business owners, she has focused on the cost savings.

“Even if it’s for the money aspect, it’s still helping the environment and bettering it,” Dunkel said.

Local restaurants and bars interested in learning more or getting signs for their businesses can call Keep Carbondale Beautiful at 618-525-5525.

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On Twitter: @janis_eschSI



Janis Esch is a reporter covering higher education.

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