Ban the Straw!

Ban the Straw!

With the rise of plastic pollution inundating the world’s oceans at about 18 billion pounds per year, cities around the world are working to change the tide with their “Ban the Straw!” call to action.  America uses over 500 million straws a day which end up in landfills or in our oceans because their composition is not suited to recycling.  Approximately 1.5 billion disposable plastics are made each year and more environmentally friendly alternatives and initiatives are necessary to preserve our beautiful planet. (Earth Day Network, 2018).

Photo Credit:  Volunteer Donna Rodriguez, of Huntington Beach, helps separate straws from other trash during the Surfrider Foundation’s first beach cleanup day of the year at Bolsa Chica State Beach in Huntington Beach on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG) (Wisckol, 2018).

 A little background on the history of the straw… Historians claim the first recorded use was by the Ancient Sumerians who used long thin tubes made from precious metals to drink alcoholic beverages over 5,000 years ago.  The first paper straw was patented in 1888 around the same time celluloid plastic straws were invented (Gibbens, 2018). By the 1960’s the proliferation of disposable single use plastic straws were mass produced to accommodate the cheap and convenient lifestyles we are accustomed to today.  Only after decades of accumulation are we beginning to realize the great environmental cost of this lightweight disposable convenience.  

Australian scientists Denise Hardesty and Chris Wilcox analyzed the composition of trash collected on the U.S. coastlines over the past 5 years and estimated there were over 7.5 million plasticstraws collected (Borenstein, 2018).  Plastic straws are consistently listed in the top 11 plastic items recovered from coastal cleanups according to the Ocean Conservancy 2018 data (TIDES system) which cause upwards of “1 million seabird and 100,000 marine animal deaths from ingested plastic each year” (Borenstein, 2018).

Plastic straws are made from type 5 plastic known as polypropylene. This type of plastic isn’t accepted by most municipality recycling programs causing them to end up in the trash where they take up to 200-years to degrade and off gas toxic chemicals into the environment.  So, given the data, you might be asking yourself, why are we still using disposable plastic straws?

Exactly!  That’s where the “Ban the Straw” grassroots movement comes in.  We’ve already witnessed larger U.S. cities such as Seattle and San Francisco take a stand by banning plastic straws and corporate companies Starbucks, American Airlines, and Aramark taking action by not offering straws to customers. Its small steps and incremental changes that lead to larger transformational impacts.

It’s our own hometown heroes like Steve Phelps, chef/owner of Indigenous Restaurant in Sarasota Florida, that started a grassroots movement getting local businesses to make a commitment to banning the straw by ditching them completely or offering a paper biodegradable alternative.

Photo Credit: Lonely Whale. (2018). Join the Movement For A Strawless Ocean

Sure, to some it feels like the straw is taking the brunt and to be honest it is! But unless medically necessary you do not need a straw to drink! Its small steps and incremental changes that lead to larger transformational impacts.

In short, we have the option to drink from the glass or go full circle back to the good ole Marvin Stone’s wax coated paper straw!  Who knows maybe the next big trend will be the decorate and ornate metal straws of the Samarians. 

Foregoing a plastic straw or packing my own reusable straw is a small inconvenience to pay to ensure future generations can enjoy nature and live long healthy lives.

 

Desiree McLaughlin
09/05/18

 

References:

Borenstein, S. (2018, April 21). Science Says: Amount of straws, plastic pollution is huge. Retrieved from https://phys.org/news/2018-04-science-amount-straws-plastic-pollution.html

Brueck, H. (2018, July 25). The real reason why so many cities and businesses are banning plastic straws. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/plastic-straw-ban-why-are-there-so-many-2018-7

Earth Day Network. (2018, April 10). Fact Sheet: Single Use Plastics | Earth Day Network. Retrieved from https://www.earthday.org/2018/03/29/fact-sheet-single-use-plastics/

Gibbens, S. (2018, July 9). A Brief History of How Plastic Straws Took Over the World. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/nature/a-brief-history-of-how-plastic-straws-took-over-the-world.aspx

Hugh. (2018, January 25). Environmental Impact of Plastic Straws (2018 Facts & Statistics). Retrieved from https://get-green-now.com/environmental-impact-plastic-straws/

Lonely Whale. (2018). Join the Movement For A Strawless Ocean. Retrieved September 4, 2018, from https://www.strawlessocean.org/faq/

Parker, L. (2018, May 16). Fast Facts About Plastic Pollution. Retrieved from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/05/plastics-facts-infographics-ocean-pollution/

 


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