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Plastic Straws, What’s the Hype and Why?

Starbucks says by 2020 it will eliminate plastic straws, turning to biodegradable straws and a newly designed lid. These new lids are made from polypropylene that can be recycled. The issue I see is would this not produce more plastic into the environment? Like the idea of reducing plastic straws, it is a thought, it is an action, it is a conversation to the bigger picture of conserving our environment.

So why are plastic straws bad for the environment?

Society has an over-reliance on single-use plastics, and the fact is that a lot of the stuff is ending up in our marine environment.

In one 2017 international coastal cleanup, 643,000 plastic straws were picked up around beaches and waterways all over the world. Straws only make up a fraction of our plastic waste. However, it is the easiest thing we can change now. It opens the door to understanding the impact of plastic, and it impacts on the environment.

All plastics ultimately sort of break down and fracture into smaller and smaller bits of plastic as a result of being tossed around by the waves, and the sunlight basically makes the plastic brittle. It creates what we call microplastics.

Microplastics are found on everything from the forage fish that are at the base of the food web up through the kinds of fish that we end up putting on our dinner plate.

Americans use an average of 1.6 straws per person per day that translates into 7.5 billion straws year. By the year 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. It takes 500 years for a single straw to decompose. In that time the plastic could potentially leak pollutants into the soil and water. Every year an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic go into our oceans, and it’s harming wildlife.

We need to be more thoughtful about how we use plastic. For starters pay closer attention to your personal practices. Get into the habit of carrying your own cup, fork, bag, and straw. That’s what I have in my bag at all times.

Decisions to make environmental friendly items or not use environmentally harmful pieces can make a positive impact. So, though the one straw may not make a real impact, the decision you make to not to use straws will change the awareness to the environment and how much a carbon footprint you leave behind.

Resources:
Business Insider, “Why Plastic Sucks,” https://www.businessinsider.com/why-plastic-straws-suck-ocean-pollution-sea-turtle-starbucks-2018-7

Ocean Conservatory: https://oceanconservancy.org/trash-free-seas/international-coastal-cleanup/volunteer/