Submitted by: Christopher Noll
Plastic straws, for many of us, have become a necessity of life. Whether at a local restaurant or enjoying a refreshing drink, asking for a straw to sip from has become a part of our daily lives. In fact, Forbes estimates that we Americans use 500 million straws per day (Bauer)! Despite this, few have pondered the impact these useful, “disposable” tools of consumption have on our oceans, forests, and wildlands. Although plastic straws were only created in the early 1960s, it is estimated that the pollution and harm plastic straws create can have severe and permanent effects, causing significant damage and death to ecosystems and wildlife (Granger). Some products in today’s market are biodegradable, allowing the product to naturally decompose, and are made from bamboo or other natural substances. Plastics, on the other hand, are a petroleum product that never truly break down in Earth’s oceans or wildlands, only leading to smaller and smaller pieces of plastic being ingested, and severely injuring the native flora and fauna.
Even worse, plastic straws cannot be recycled. Although most straws are created out of a highly recyclable form of plastic, called polypropylene, most recyclers are very particular about which types of this substance they collect. This leaves plastic straws in the dump, or in the ocean (Granger). So what can be done to stop this waste? If they cannot be recycled, then what? Ordering drinks without straws or telling the waiter to hold the straw are both great ways to reduce straw usage. If you have sensitive teeth and need a straw to sip various beverages, trying bamboo or reusable straws, such as dishwasher-safe metal straws, can be great alternatives to plastic straws and will further reduce your impact on the environment. Furthermore, although plastic straws have a significant impact on our oceans and wildlands, there are great alternatives which eager, straw-loving consumers can help end plastic straws’ reign over us and our environment.