Hundreds of billions of plastic drinking straws are used globally. They are lightweight, non-recyclable and are easily blown away by the wind. They are one of the most commonly found litter items. They are easily mistaken by sea animals as a source of food and can result in death and injury for many…
In other words, straws suck! It does not take much to give up plastic straws and besides, there are various sustainable straw alternatives available today.
What can I do?
The vast majority of people use drinking straws solely for convenience, so it should be a very easy habit to break!
- Sip with your lips whenever you can! If hygiene is a concern, then that is another reason to use a reusable bottle as we spoke about in Pledge #9.
- If you’re a lover of smoothies, consider bringing your own sustainable straw alternative (glass and metal options are great). You can also support establishments that make use of truly biodegradable ones, like paper, pasta or reeds (not “biodegradable” plastic).
- BE PREPARED! The trick is to let your server know that you don’t want a straw when you place your order. Otherwise, they will bring you one automatically, which is such a waste.
Why does it matter?
Like most single-use items, straws are used for a very short time and then discarded. The manufacturing of straws uses up resources and when they are disposed of, they end up polluting the environment, as they are not recycled or recyclable.
- Hundreds of millions of plastic drinking straws are used every day. It’s estimated that the US alone may use as many as half a billion a day. This is enough to circle the world twice if connected from end to end.
- 8.3 billion straws litter the world’s beaches, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg as billions more pollute the environment. Straws suck!
- Straws do not biodegrade. There is no natural process that destroys plastic – even after hundreds of years in the sun, it just breaks up into small pieces. It’s still plastic, and plastic lasts forever and therefore, we need to give up plastic straws!
- Straws are not recycled. They are made of #5 polypropylene and despite the “♷” logo, they are not recycled anywhere.
- The 2017 International Coastal Cleanup picked up enough straws to make a line 145 times taller than the One World Trade Centre.
- Over 1 million birds are killed by plastic every year – many by drinking straws.
- Drinking straws, like all other plastic, are made from crude oil. Plastic uses 8% of the world’s oil resources, so it contributes to global climate change.
Myth-busting: Nobody needs a straw
Unfortunately, some people NEED to use drinking straws for medical reasons or due to diminished mobility. That’s ok – the issue is the billions of plastic straws that are used by the majority of people for no other reason than indulgence and because they are offered to them. The tiny proportion of straws used for valid reasons are a good example of situations where using a disposable plastic item is actually appropriate!
So, if you are don’t need to use a plastic straw, don’t, but we should never shame those who are unable to give up plastic straws.
Who can I follow?
Loads of coffee shops and restaurants are quitting straws, and plenty of countries and cities are implementing their own plastic straw bans. Support the local brands that support our ocean – but remember that it’s ok for them to make a few straws available to those that genuinely need them.
Want some inspiration? Young Ocean Pledge Ambassador Ray Clarke has something to share: