More and more countries or large retailers are banning plastic straws. Unfortunately bans alone won't change much, what we need is a global social movement! Luckily, plastic straws are quickly becoming a dining taboo, here's why:
Less than 9% of all of the plastic we use every day gets recycled.
Instead, most end up in landfills or worst case scenario: in the ocean. That problem won't be fixed by saying 'no' to plastic straws, but from what environmentalists say letting go of a single piece of plastic could be the first step in a much-needed larger behavioral change.
In September, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a first-of-its-kind bill aimed at reducing straw waste in the state. Starting in 2019, sit-down restaurants in the Golden State won’t serve any drinks with straws, unless customers ask for them.
California recently became the first state to nix plastic straws from restaurant tables. Starting in 2019, customers in that state will have to ask if they want to use a straw. Plastic straw bans are going into effect around the US, UK, and the European Union who both have their own plastic ban proposals in the works.
Corporate bans are also quickly gaining momentum as large companies like Aramark, American Airlines and Starbucks are vowing to stop offering plastic straws. Starbucks has decided to get its iconic green sippers completely off store shelves by 2020, while Seattle banned all plastic utensils, including straws, from bars and businesses city-wide in July.
The truth is that straws are just the tip of the trash heap when it comes to plastic waste. At the same time the fight’s got to start somewhere. Because plastics have been designed to be used for a very short amount of time, and then be tossed away, banning straws become a symbol of a larger movement.
A Brief History of Drinking Straws
A gold-foil drinking straw (2450 B.C.) found in the tomb of Queen Puabi at Ur, what is now southern Iraq. Source: Penn Museum
While plastic straws are a recent invention, humans have been using hollow, cylindrical tubes to bring the liquid to their lips for centuries. One of the first societies known to brew beer 5,000 years ago inundated long, thin tubes made from precious metals into large jars to reach the liquid sitting below fermentation byproducts.
Joseph B. Friedman and his patent. Source: Wikipedia
It wasn't until the 1930's that straws gained the ability to bend. Watching his daughter struggle to easily reach her milkshake through a straight paper straw, inventor Joseph Friedman inserted a screw into the straw, wrapped the floss around the screw's grooves, and took out the screw. With indentations, the straw could easily bend without breaking.
Hospitals were among the first to embrace bendable straws because they allowed patients to drink while lying in bed.
Plastics Straws Everywhere
Straws were among the many throw-away products being rapidly manufactured by large corporations. Plastic straws quickly became cheaper to produce and more durable than paper. They could easily wedge between the crosshairs of a fast food restaurants to-go lid without ripping or tearing. A number of large manufacturers met the demands of a society increasingly looking for convenient items that could be taken on-the-go.
But now the world is struggling to recover from its plastic pollution hangover.
Corporations, municipalities, and even national governments are proposing and implementing bans on plastic straws. Some companies have jumped into the fray by manufacturing metal and glass straws that environmentally conscious consumers can buy for personal use, though they lack the disposable nature of paper and plastic from which restaurants benefit.
The same businesses that once benefited from public excitement over plastic are increasingly feeling public pressure to use alternatives. Environmental groups, however, say plastic straw bans are an important step toward their ultimate goal: ending the circulation of single-use plastic.
Here are some of the reasons why we should stop using plastic straws:
1. Plastic Straws can’t be easily Recycled
2. When plastic straws aren’t recycled, they end up in landfills, or even worse, polluting our oceans.
3. Plastics do not Biodegrade
Biodegrading is when an item can be naturally broken down and digested by micro-organisms, and then naturally recycled into new organic molecules and life. Degrading is just the process of breaking down into smaller pieces. When plastic degrades, the bulk of the plastic will seem to disappear. Plastic straws take up to 200 years to degrade, but will never be fully off the Earth, as plastics are not biodegradable. To make matters worse, the degrading of plastic releases chemicals that are toxic to wildlife and the environment.
4. Straws Are Littered Very Often
Plastic straws never fail to make it on the list of one of the most found ocean litter. Straws are currently the 8th most found ocean trash in cleanups by quantity. All these straws and plastic polluting our oceans is having a negative impact on marine life. Straws are also especially dangerous to seabirds, as they can be easily picked up and swallowed, suffocating and choking the bird. In fact, millions of seabirds die each year from eating plastic.
The simplest way to reduce plastic pollution is to reject the use of single-use plastics, like straws. Plastic straws and other single-use plastics are a non-essential part of our life. Yet, they cause so much damage to the environment.
Best Substitute for a Plastic Straws
Organic bamboo straws are the cheapest option, so even though they’re meant to last a really long time, you also don’t have to feel bad about losing them or throwing them away. Everyone likes to have a chilled drink in sunny weather. With bamboo straws, you can enjoy it without damaging the environment.
These are basically bamboo sticks, and when you’re done with them, all you have to do is stick them in the woods and walk away. That’s how renewable they are!