Do we really need to use plastic straws? That’s the question many “no straw” movement enthusiasts are asking. Think about it. You go out to eat or you grab a smoothie from your local juice bar and your drink almost always comes with a straw. But have you ever stopped to wonder how all this plastic could affect the environment?
The United States alone uses and throws away 500 million plastic straws every day. Recently, it’s come to light how bad this can be for the environment, specifically our oceans.
Next time you’re at a restaurant, look around at how many plastic straws are being used. Then picture that multiplied by millions of people over the course of a year. Now that’s a lot of waste.
Plastic pollution is quickly becoming one of the greatest threats to ocean life. According to Strawless Ocean, plastic straws are often littered or are so light they blow out of trash cans, transport boats and landfills. All gutters and storm drains lead to the ocean, so guess where these straws end up? In this video by Last Straw Movement, a beach in Hong Kong shows just how many plastic straws are polluting our oceans and beaches.
Once plastic straws enter the ocean, they slowly break down into small pieces, absorbing other toxins found in the water. Wildlife like fish eat the small particles of plastic which can cause three things to happen:
1. Plastic fills their stomachs with a substance that has no nutritional value, leaving no room for actual food needed to survive, which can result in starvation for ocean wildlife.
2. The toxins in the plastic pieces transfer toxins into the flesh of the wildlife (like fish).
3. Other animals, including humans, eat these fish, which means we’re taking in these toxins too.
Plastic doesn’t “go away” because it never, ever breaks down. This TEDx Talk by nine year-old Molly Steer summarizes and puts it all into perspective. With this comes the realization that the first plastic straw you ever used is still on this planet!
Most of us don’t actually need straws, which is what the owner of The Dakota Tavern in Toronto realized. In this CTV News article, Shawn Creamer is interviewed on why he no longer serves plastic straws at his bar.
Like Shawn and many others who are rallying behind the no straw movement, here are some ways we can avoid using plastic straws:
• Say no when you go out, by simply requesting “no plastic straw” when you order a drink. This also gives you a chance to spread the word when people ask why.
• Choose biodegradable – although more expensive, if you must use a straw why not use one that’s 100% biodegradable, sustainably-sourced and 100% toxin-free? Last Straw has created these for businesses as an alternative to plastic straws and they’re even packaged in 100% recycled paper boxes.
You could also choose to drink straight from the glass (like the little guy above!). No matter how you work around it, it’s pretty easy to say no to plastic straws. So join the movement and spread the word!