Molly Steer is a little girl with a big dream. After watching the documentary A Plastic Ocean with her mother, she began a crusade to protect the Great Barrier Reef from plastic waste.
“Until I watched A Plastic Ocean, I didn’t know anything about plastic pollution. What I saw really shocked me – I couldn’t understand why more people weren’t doing something about this. So I decided if they weren’t, I would,” says Molly.
While all sorts of plastics clog up our oceans and waterways, it was disposable straws that Molly found most concerning. Over 500 million straws are used every day, with many ending up drifting in the ocean and causing serious harm or even death to native wildlife.
Kick-starting the campaign
Molly’s determination led her to found Straw No More, which campaigns for individuals, schools and businesses in her local area to stop using disposable plastic straws. She now spends her free time travelling around schools and communities to educate as many people as possible about the impacts of plastic on the Great Barrier Reef. Molly explains: “There’s always going to be some people who don’t agree – but I’m sure they will eventually. It seems pretty simple to me.”
In just two years, the project has attracted widespread attention from the media and public – leading to an invitation to appear in the ABC’s acclaimed War On Waste series. In 2018, at the age of 10, Molly became the youngest person to deliver a TEDx talk and received the Cairns Young Woman of the Year Award. She used this recognition as an opportunity to get her message across to an even greater audience.
“Mum was shocked when I challenged the Cairns Mayor Bob Manning during my award acceptance speech,” Molly says. “But when Mayor Bob agreed to make Cairns Council plastic-free, that really kicked off the whole campaign.”
Taking it to the national stage
Encouraged by the support she has received so far, Molly has set her goal even higher – and is using her public profile to engage the interest of politicians and key decision-makers.
“Our federal member, Warren Entsch, said that before he met me he didn’t know there was a plastic pollution problem,” Molly says. “He made a promise to spend his next term in office creating a policy to find a solution – so that’s what I’m most proud of.”
Molly’s initial vision of a straw-free Queensland now extends to the rest of Australia – and beyond. “I met Prime Minister ScoMo and asked when Parliament House will join Straw No More. He said he’d support that, but I think I will have to keep reminding him.”
Next, she is headed to Canada to meet Adrian Grenier, a Hollywood actor and advocate for Strawless in Seattle. “He’s a bit of a hero of mine!” Molly says. Imagine an entire city that size going straw-free.”
In the meantime, just like every other sixth-grader, she still has to keep up with her schoolwork – while saving the world, one straw at a time.
This article originally appeared in Good Money issue 13. You can read the entire magazine here.