In the never-ending fight to keep our planet clean and eliminate unnecessary plastic use, one item people have reduced using is straws. Recently I have noticed more and more restaurants have stopped supplying straws; not giving customers one unless it is requested or switching to more sustainable options. However, just like any other time changes are implemented, not everyone is pleased with not having a straw or some of the sustainable counterparts. Even though I am absolutely on board with giving up straws, paper straws are not my favorite and some drinks are easier to consume with a straw. In case you are still on the fence about which side of the straw debate you should be on, I wanted to find out how bad plastic straws really are for the environment and what other options are available.
When were plastic straws invented?
Did you know that straws have been around for hundreds of years? The first paper straw was invented in the late 1880s and before that people used rye grass straws. The plastic straw that we are familiar with now didn’t gain popularity until polypropylene plastic was developed in the 1950s. The main marketing focus for plastic straws was to supply a more sanitary option. That, along with the convenience of throwing them away rather than cleaning them, led to disposable plastic straws becoming so widely popular.
Why are straws bad for the environment?
The lifespan of plastic lasts long after it has served its purpose. Some scientists believe one plastic bag could take as long as 500 years, or longer, to decompose. Because plastic products take so long to breakdown many single-use plastics end up in landfills and can even make their way into our oceans. Have you heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It is one of five large masses of accumulated plastic in our oceans. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was first discovered more than 20 years ago and is located between Hawaii and California. It is currently estimated to be 1.6 million square kilometers making it roughly twice the size of Texas.
Because plastic straws are made up of a thinner material they break down into smaller microplastics. These microplastics are then easily ingested by marine life which can lead to death. It is believed that Americans use roughly 500 million disposable plastic straws daily. Even with a number that high, straws are only the seventh most common piece of trash collected along shorelines. Many people see the fight to eliminate plastic straws as a way to help introduce others to the larger fight against single-use plastics.
When did the fight to stop using straws begin or become popular?
In 2015 a video filmed by marine biologist Christine Figgener went viral when millions of online viewers witnessed a straw being removed from a sea turtle’s nostril. The video is a bit graphic and hard to watch but it definitely struck a cord for many of those who watched it. Since the video was released there have been many great changes made, such as, Starbucks switching from plastic straws to a sippy cup lid (it’s still made of plastic so not 100% better) and Seattle becoming the first city to ban plastic straws.
Click here to watch the viral video mentioned above. The video does include graphic content and language so proceed with caution.
What are some sustainable straw options?
- Bamboo – Bamboo straws are a great plastic alternative because they are biodegradable, organic, and chemical-free, thus making them the best option. Check out this set that includes 4 reusable bamboo straws, a cleaning brush, and a storage pouch.
- Stainless Steal – My personal favorite reusable straw is the Zoku Straw. The zoku straw is collapsible and fits in a small holder that you can attach to your keychain or toss in your purse so that it is readily available whenever you need it.
- Glass – Glass straws are another great alternative to single-use plastic. This set of 5 glass straws is very affordable at $12.99, and if you only need one straw you can give the extra ones to friends or family to encourage them to skip the plastic straw.
At the end of the day, single-use plastic straws are only a small piece of a much bigger problem. But, with ditching the straw or switching to a more sustainable option being such a simple and affordable change to make, why not join the cause? If you have yet to make the switch to saying no to plastic straws I hope this post has given you that extra push you needed to help make a change.