Northwest Florida restaurants are slowly switching to "sea turtle friendly" dinnerware following a social media awareness campaign against some single-use plastic.
Dewey Destin's Seafood & Restaurant, The Slippery Mermaid Sushi Bar and McGuire's Irish Pub are just three local restaurants that have stopped offering customers plastic straws and other single-use plastic items.
Rebecca Destin, one of the owners of Dewey Destin's, said her restaurant decided to start using biodegradable gumbo bowls and straws because it was "just the right thing to do." Destin said the restaurant gave out 500 to 1,000 plastic straws to customers each day before the switch.
"It seems like the younger generation of business owners are starting to be very conscious of the environment and are eco-friendly," Destin said. "It makes me feel good about our future."
The push toward biodegradable dinnerware began with viral videos posted on social media showing plastic straws lodged in the noses of sea turtles and dead whales with stomachs full of plastic.
Graham Northup, curator of fish and reptiles at the Gulfarium on Okaloosa Island, said single-use plastic items such as straws and paper bags are "definitely a huge problem" for marine life.
"All of those plastics end up in our oceans. There's over 8 million metric tons of plastics that enter the oceans every year," he said. "So much of that stuff interacts with sea life all the time. ... We've seen a lot of plastics in and on turtles that come into our care."
Northup said that single-use plastics are "easily avoidable." Eliminating or at least reducing their use is a good thing for the environment.
Not all coastal restaurants are on board with eliminating single-use plastics.
Coastal Community Cleanup, a nonprofit group that picks up discarded items on the beach, recently shared a photo on social media of more than 50 plastic straws picked up by a volunteer on the beach in front of a Destin restaurant last week.
Some local nonprofits are even taking their efforts further by going door-to-door to encourage the eateries to halt the use of unnecessary plastic.
The Slippery Mermaid Sushi Bar in Navarre started using plates and bowls made out of palm leaves and biodegradable straws after the Sea Turtle Conservation Commission approached the business about the issue, according to Assistant Manager Rianna Knight. Knight said the owners of the restaurant are very environmentally conscious and are doing everything they can to eliminate waste.
"We've been doing our homework and talking to people about plastic alternatives," Knight said. "It's exciting."
The restaurants did not address the use of plastic utensils.