There seems to be a war on plastic nowadays, yet so many people still don't see the harm in using plastic straws. For most of us, straws are an unnecessary convenience. Don't get me wrong, I love using straws, but I dislike the environmental impact that disposables are having on our environment.
My teeth are very sensitive to cold, so I like to use straws for cold drinks. It’s also nice when you’re drinking a smoothie (me everyday) and you don’t have to lick your upper lip after every sip and can keep your lipstick (if you’re wearing any) looking nice.
According to ocean conservation non-profit, 5gyres, “we use more than 500 million plastic straws each day.” Get Green Now estimates that, “each year 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals die from ingesting plastic.” These are alarming statistics that should cause us to stop and consider our own overuse of plastic.
Reasons to Reduce plastic straw use:
1. They are not easily recycled. This is because they are made from polypropylene (plastic number 5) which is not accepted by most recycling plants. Small single pieces of plastic are difficult to sort and recycle appropriately. Also, for sanitation reasons, straws provided in restaurants are often individually wrapped in additional paper or plastic.
2. They never truly biodegrade, they just degrade through cycles. Biodegrading is a natural process in which microorganisms decompose the item and the item is naturally recycled into new organic molecules and life. When something degrades, it just breaks down into smaller pieces, but it’s still just plastic. This eventually forms microplastics, which contaminate our waterways and oceans along with other pollution and trash.
3. They pollute our ocean, environment, and harm wildlife. Microplastics can get into our seafood, which you can then ingest. Yikes! Plastic pollution impacts much more than just the handful of species that humans choose to eat--turtles, dolphins, whales, birds, seals, sharks, fish, etc. and any other creatures in or near the water are affected.
Although the convenience of plastic straws is great, it’s just not sustainable, and there are some better options out there.
I recently had the pleasure of working with reusable straw company, Eco at Heart. They specialize in stainless steel straws with normal and smoothie size variations as well as short, tall, and bent straws.
They are one of the many companies working hard to make a difference. Other companies make rubbery silicone straws and compostable paper straws, however the life cycle for these is not as strong. Silicone ones are great because they are washable, reusable, and won’t injure your mouth or teeth—however, they also do not decompose, biodegrade, and can’t be properly recycled. Compostable paper ones are nice for a one time use, but that’s exactly what they are – a ONE time use. You need to keep buying them and they would need to be composted each time to actually have a closed loop life cycle.
tips for reducing plastic straw use:
1. Invest $10-20 in some reusable straws (I recommend metal for long time wear and closed loop life cycle).
2. Next time you’re out eating at a restaurant, just ask for no straw – it’s that easy!
3. If you work at a restaurant, only give straws if the customer asks for one.
4. Cut back on super cold or icy drinks that promote straw use in general.
5. Bring your own straw. I have a little metal cutlery pouch for those times on the go that contains a small spoon, big spoon, fork, straw, and it used to have a knife until I forgot to remove it before I tried to go through airport security : (. You can always bring your own straw to use when eating out. Trust me, it’s not as weird as you think – people actually have commended me for bringing it!
6. If you opt for reusable straws, be sure to clean them thoroughly with the proper tools.
7. Young children should not be using metal straws as they can be dangerous. This is where the silicone ones are helpful! Chew on those bad boys all you want and no harm no foul.
8. Be kind! Remember to not freak out if you see others using plastic straws. Some people (especially older and younger) need a straw because of functional or structural limitations in drinking or swallowing. You can always encourage reusables or no-straw in a positive way. This also applies to when you're at a restaurant and you ask for no straw and the waiter brings it in your drink anyway. There isn't much you can do here because it's going in the trash whether you take it out of your drink or not. You can try and save it for later and recycle it, but as stated above - plastic straws are very difficult to recycle. Just be polite and say thank you.