"It was never just about the straw," said Christine Figgener, 35, who was calling from Texas A&M University, where she is finishing a Ph.D. in marine biology. Her voice got stronger the more she ranted. "The straw was supposed to be a symbol, a poster child. It's a low-hanging fruit."

Figgener studies marine turtles, and in August 2015 she posted a video of one getting a plastic straw removed from its left nostril. The procedure seemed painful, and the turtle kept sneezing adorably. Over 40 million people have seen the clip on YouTube. A public crusade against plastic straws began.

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