L.L.Bean Drops Plastic Straws After Plea From Young Sea Turtle Activist

Seven-year-old Benjamin Ball made one simple request while visiting the cafe at L.L.Bean’s flagship store in Freeport, Maine. He wanted a paper straw for his lemonade, not a plastic one. He was saddened to find out L.L.Bean didn’t have any.

This problem remained on Benjamin’s mind all the way back home to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Benjamin is a sea turtle activist, so he well knew the serious problems that plastics in the ocean have on sea turtles and other marine life. He decided he needed to do something. So he wrote a letter to L.L.Bean CEO Steve Smith.

“I’m writing to you because I’m a friend of the Sea Turtles and I want to protect them,” Benjamin wrote. “Marine animals get killed by plastic in the Ocean. The Sea Turtles are important to the ecosystem and me.”

Benjamin then got right to the Big Ask.

“I know that L.L. Bean cares about the Earth too,” Benjamin’s letter continued. “If it is possible, could you use paper straws instead of plastic straws, please?”

One wouldn’t expect a kid’s letter to make it all the way to a major company’s head honcho, but Benjamin’s did — and quickly. The letter thoroughly enchanted Smith.

“It made me smile,” Smith said in a Dickinson College video. “It was a really articulate, well-reasoned, polite, yet passionate and emotional note about saving a species that no one is speaking for. It hit me in a really emotional way.”

THE PLIGHT OF SEA TURTLES

More than a million marine animals – including sea turtles, birds, marine mammals, fish and sharks — die every year because of plastic debris in the ocean, according to the Sea Turtle Conservancy. That debris consists of items, such as plastic bags, packaging, bottles, food wrappers and even old buoys.

Sea creatures eat plastic or become entangled in it. Either way, it can be deadly. Watch rescuers extract a plastic straw from a sea turtle’s nose here:

More than half of all sea turtles from all seven species have ingested plastic, according to researchers. There’s a 1 in 5 chance that a turtle will die if it consumes just one piece of plastic. If it consumes 14 pieces, there’s a 50 percent chance it will die.

Researchers discovered one dead sea turtle who had consumed a shocking 329 pieces of plastic. Sea turtles are unable to vomit plastic pieces once they’re swallowed. The pieces must pass through their digestive systems or, sadly, get permanently lodged in there.

Even turtle hatchlings are at a significant risk, say scientists. Microscopic and nanoscopic plastic particles end up in the sea turtles’ gastrointestinal tracts. They ingest plastic without even trying.

“They’re pretty non-discriminatory with what they’re eating at this life stage. They eat whatever floats past them,” Samantha Clark, a veterinary technician at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, Florida, told the Pacific Standard in 2018.

According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, leatherback turtles are particularly unable to distinguish between floating jellyfish and plastic bags. And because jellyfish are a mainstay in their diets, this is a significant threat to the survival of the species.

L.L.BEAN TAKES ACTION

“This letter hit at the absolutely perfect time with a fantastic idea,” Smith said. He arranged for all of L.L.Bean’s retail affiliates and employee cafeterias to convert to 100 percent corn biodegradable straws.

Thanks, Benjamin, for taking action when you knew it was needed. Of all the people who visited L.L.Bean’s cafe through the years, you were the one to identify an environmental problem and work to solve it.

If every one of us did the same, think how much better this world could be.

Photo credit: Getty Images

101 comments

Jennifer H
Jennifer H17 days ago

I wish more kids were like him! Good work. I am impressed LL Bean listened. Plan to support companies who support these efforts.

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Melania P
Melania P28 days ago

Wonderful!

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Michael F

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson29 days ago

Thank you.

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Christine V
Christine Vabout a month ago

It's great to see kids making a difference.

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heather g
heather gabout a month ago

Thanks to the young activist

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Janis K
Janis Kabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Michael Friedmann
Michael Friedmannabout a month ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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Carole R
Carole Rabout a month ago

A step in the right direction.

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Daniel N
Daniel Nabout a month ago

Thanks

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