A YOUNG girl’s simple idea to protect the Great Barrier Reef from plastic waste has won her the title of Cairns Young Woman of the Year.
Molly Steer, a Year 5 student at Mother of Good Counsel, North Cairns, received the title at the recent Cairns International Women’s Day awards for her Straw No More project, a crusade she started last year to rid the world of plastic straws.
“It felt strange and exciting to win the Cairns Young Woman of the Year award,” Molly said.
“There are lots of girls doing great things in Cairns, but I’m really proud and honoured that I was selected from all the girls.”
Cairns Mayor Bob Manning, who told Molly he would work towards implementing a straw-free Cairns, backed the young student’s vision of a plastic straw-free world.
“Mayor Manning said it’s going to take a bit of work to make it happen, but he’s determined,” Molly said.
“If the Cairns Regional Council becomes the first council in Australia to go straw free, it will encourage other councils and businesses to do the same.
“It will mean that more people are talking about straws, and they will realise that we can live without straws.”
Molly’s crusade gained huge media attention last year when she started the project, including being the youngest person invited to speak at a TedX talk in Cairns.
She said a principal from a school in Canada who saw her TED talk was making her school a Straw No More school.
As well as Canada and Australia, Molly has received support from schools in New Zealand, South Korea, America, and the United Kingdom.
Cafes and restaurants have also jumped in to support Molly’s the project.
Molly said her drive to see straws eliminated completely came from seeing the documentary A Plastic Ocean with her mother, Julianne.
Her first step was to stop using straws herself and then she convinced her friends to do the same.
Molly, who has since done her own research into straw use globally, said people used more than 500 million straws a day.
“If you lined these up end-to-end, they would wrap around the earth four times. 500 million straws could also fill 17 school buses…every single day,” she said.
“I also learned that plastic will never, ever completely break down. Not even in 100 years.
“That means that the first plastic straw you ever used is still somewhere on the planet.”
Mother Of Good Counsel principal Ruth Mallon is both impressed and extremely proud of Molly.
“I think her campaign is an incredible example of what one person can do to have an effect on the behavior of others, and for it to be a child who has that effect is great for every person in the world to see,” Ms Mallon said.
“We have already done a lot of work with our students about recycling products, but we haven’t done as much about not using them in the first place.
“We are now looking beyond the straws and want to extend our sustainability concepts beyond recycling to what we’re using in the first place.”
Molly is determined to make everyone aware of the dangers of using plastic straws, and to use alternatives such as bamboo, stainless steel, paper and glass straws.
“I want to get rid of all the plastic straws in the world,” she said.
For more information on the campaign visit www.fb.com/StrawNoMoreProject
By Janie Barton