Did you know that over 500,000,000 single-use, plastic straws are used in the U.S.A. every day? Although they offer drinkers convenience, plastic straws cannot be recycled properly due to their size and weight and are common pollutants found in the ocean and in landfills.
Impact of Plastic on the Environment
Plastic straws take over 200 years to fully “decompose,” but even then, plastic decomposition isn’t actually possible. Instead, plastic goods break down into small pieces, known as microplastics, that wildlife (and humans) eventually consume. These tiny particles are potentially carcinogenic and attract other water pollutants in open water.
Not only is plastic consumption toxic, but plastics are responsible for large-scale bird and marine life death and suffering as wildlife accidentally consumes, chokes on, or is strangled by discarded plastic waste. Over the years, there have been countless videos showing the impact straw solution is having on wildlife, particularly in the ocean. Don’t believe me? Check out this video of a Sea Turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nostril. Other known effects of plastics on marine life include the horrific effect that plastic toxins have in destroying coral reefs.
Sustainable Business Practices
Across the country, cities and towns are beginning to take measures to reduce plastic consumption – with some cities (like Seattle, Washington) banning the sale of plastic utensils, while other towns such as Concord, Massachusetts are banning the sale of single-use plastic water bottles. However, these changes have been occurring at the local municipal level.
Many major companies have yet to adopt more sustainable business practices. This past Monday, July 9th, Starbucks announced that it will be phasing out single-use plastic straws. Instead of using straws, the chain will introduce new lids, which some are dubbing “adult sippy cups,” across it’s 28,000 global stores by 2020.
Not only is Starbucks’ action good for combatting pollution, but this wide-sweeping change has the possibility to inspire other brands to follow suit. Moreover, this announcement is already spurring great conversation across the country about the use of plastics and the effect that plastics are having on the environment.
Plastic straws are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to pollution in our oceans. See below for a graphic from a 2017 study by the Ocean Conservatory, which highlights the most commonly found ocean pollutants on coastal shores. In fact, there are portions of the ocean that are so polluted that those zones are virtually uninhabitable for marine life. Read here for more information on the Great Pacific Trash Vortex.
Plastic Straw Alternatives
However, if reading all of the aforementioned facts about plastic pollution still isn’t enough of a deterrent for you to minimize your use of certain plastics such as straws, then the below are great options that will have a less negative impact on the environment:
Eco at Heart Reusable Metal Straws – available on Amazon for $15.00 USD
Biodegradable Bamboo Drinking Straws – available on Amazon for $20.00 USD
Biodegradable Striped Paper Straws – available on Amazon for $8.99 USD
*Images used in this post are not my own.
What are your thoughts on Starbucks’ plastic straw ban? Do you think other businesses will catch on? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.