The problem of the plastic straw
in the US ALONE, 500 MILLION straws are used every single day
- Plastic Straws are the 8th most found ocean trash (as of 2018)
- Each year, ONE MILLION seabirds and 100,000 marine animals die from consuming plastic
Aren't straws recyclable?
I once thought so, but most plastic straws are too lightweight to make it through the mechanical recycling sorter. They sneak their way through sorting mechanisms and mix with other materials and are too small to separate. This leads to them contaminating recycling loads or getting disposed of as regular trash.
The lifespan of a plastic straw
It takes 10 minutes to create
It lives as an active drinking straw for around 20 minutes
It lives around 200-400 YEARS, somewhere on this planet, because it is not biodegradable
Is there any hope?
Companies and governments all around the world are proposing bans on plastic straws, promoting the more sustainable alternative of using metal & glass straws, that an environmentally conscious buyer can use instead. Unfortunately, they lack the ease of disposing of, and not as cost-effective for restaurants to start using.
Did you know, the average restaurant throws away 45,000 straws a year
The biggest contributor of plastic straws into the ocean is found in big tourist destinations, whose numbers have sky-rocketed over the last few decades due to travel becoming easier and social media making the world a smaller place.
South-East Asia has been hit hardest: places such as Indonesia, The Philippines & Thailand, whose gigantic stretch of coastline along with the beachside destinations, are big hitters on the plastic straw issue.
In her book, Plastic: A Toxic Love Story , Susan Freikel discusses how the human love affair with plastic began, but more importantly how the relationship was not so healthy after all.
Bali in 2018 took a big step in reducing plastic pollution by banning the single-use plastic bags, styrofoam, and straws after it declared a 'garbage emergency'in 2017. Indonesia's minister for maritime affairs launched an action plan pledging up to US$1 billion to cut ocean waste 70 percent by 2025. Beaches were shut, & cleanups have been taking place on the most popular beaches in Kuta, to try and reduce the issue. Does it need to become an emergency before we all take action? If Bali can put such things in place, then why can't the rest of the world?
What can we all do?
Well, to begin with, at the very least you need to say "No plastic straw please". Without the demand, at least for now they will stay in their container, where they're safe from causing harm.
Use alternatives to plastic
Clean some straws up yourself
Believe me, it doesn't take much for you to just grab a bag and fill it up with trash. In coastal areas, especially in Asia, you will see how many single-use plastics such as straws and plastic bags you fill find lying or floating around the beach. Grab a bag, and clean some up yourself.