Welcome back to another beautiful Saturday with yours truly! By now all of you are well aware of the totally disjointed, and all over the place-ness that is my blog. I am constantly hit with new ideas for topics, and I hate to admit that I have little regard for maintaining any form of topic structure. For those of you that have been loyal readers thank you for bearing with me, and my rambling ways for as long as you have.
I’m certain you all have been reading, hearing, and watching on the news this huge push to get rid of the new environmental villain on the metaphoric block: the plastic straw. Some may be questioning the significance of why this small consumer convenience is creating such a big stir, but don’t you worry I’m here to save the day well not really, but you know what I mean...by informing you of all that makes the plastic straw hate worthy.
Let me be frank, plastic straws are terrible for the ocean, and marine life that call the ocean home. It is estimated that roughly 70% of seabirds and 30% of turtles have been found with plastic in their stomachs; though, what’s worse we can’t possibly gauge how many others are facing a similar fate. Marine animals have a 50% mortality rate as a result of ingesting plastic. The plastic straw is the 11thmost found material in the ocean and its one-time use means that there are more always in production (get-green-now.com). This next statistic is bound to cause some readers a nightmare or two; scientist estimate that by the year 2050 there will be more pieces of plastic in the ocean than there are fish… let me repeat that; there is a STRONG chance that in our lifetime there will be more pieces of plastic in the ocean than the creatures meant to live there (metro.co.uk).
Now, now I know this is a lot to take in, and I know you are probably regretting ever asking for that straw to go with your dairy- free,fat- free, light- iced latte, but there is more. Straws are uber difficult to recycle because most of them are made out of lightweight plastic which causes them to drop through the sorting screens and mix with other materials according to strawlessocean.org. Straws are also too small to separate, which contaminates recycling loads, or they simply are disposed of in regular garbage.
Just to refresh you on the evils of plastic; plastic does not biodegrade, it photo degrades into smaller and smaller pieces. These tiny particles of plastic are then digested by marine and land animals, and eventually make their way into ourfood chain. These pesky plastic particles get into our soil affecting plant growth and even work its way into our drinking water. Every piece of plastic ever made is still on our planet. Due to the magical chemical make-up of plastic it is the superman of pollutants, and there is nothing in nature that is as strong enough to biodegrade it… too bad we can’t get our hands on some pollutant fighting kryptonite to weaken plastic into non-existence. Our only hope for ridding ourselves of plastic is to stop producing more of it and to reuse what we already have produced. Even when incinerated plastic doesn’t go away, the toxic dioxins are released back into the air and we either breathe it in or it settles right back onto our crops and get introduced into our systems through eating, drinking, breathing and anything else living creatures must do.
Now back to the plastic straw issue.
Straws are used in such high quantities across the globe that they often end up in the ocean simply through human error. We use 500 million straws every day and that’s just in North America.To help put that number in perspective the amount of straws we use per day is enough to wrap around the earth’s circumference 2.5 times A DAY. That also adds up to 175 billion straws a year going into landfills and floating in our rivers, lakes and ocean. The plastic straw is to blame for the death of 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals per year (theplasticstraw.org).
These statistics are overwhelming to see, so don’t beat yourself up too bad if you’re feeling guilty about your carefree straw use up to this point. I have certainly asked for my fair share of straws while dinning out, but we won’t talk about that. The upside to my Debbie Downer rant is that there are many alternatives to the traditional plastic straw. The first and probably easiest alternative to the plastic straw for most people is to just not use one. There are many reasons why straws are still necessary for some people, so I’m going to list some options that I came across in my typical internet perusing via (globalcitizen.org): Bamboo straws- they are lightweight, reusable and don’t have any chemicals or dyes. Paper straws- a single use alternative to plastic and fully compostable. Glass straws- in my opinion these can be tricky because of breakability factor…kids beware (or clumsy adults like myself). They are reusable and will last for a long time if handled with care. Water bottles/ cups with reusable straws already built in are a great option. Steel straws- are durable and easy to clean and they can be cleaned and easily carried around.
Many large companies are now jumping on the earth saving bandwagon to do their part in protecting it. To name a few that have recently been in the media spotlight; Starbucks created a cold cup lid that will be standard for most of their iced drinks, and for the few exceptions they will provide straws made from paper or compostable plastic manufactured from fermented plant starch. I am especially proud of my old gig American Airlines… for those of you that don’t know I am a former American Airlines Flight Attendant.They have recently introduced bamboo stir sticks in place of the plastic ones to cut down on their own environmental footprint. Locally in Oklahoma all Good Egg restaurants will cease to use plastics straws as of July 15th.
The amazing result of all of the media attention surrounding plastic straw alternatives has sparked a trend in companies to do their part. The media spotlight has also put pressure on companies that have been slower to invest in researching their own alternatives to pick up the pace. Some cities in the United States have already begun to put bans on the use of plastic straws. The City of Seattle has been the trail blazer for plastic straw ban, which went into effect as of July 1st, and includes both the use of plastic straws and utensils offered in restaurants.
*Leans back in computer chair to stretch aching fingers from this novel long blog post I just forced you to read through.
The battle against plastic straws has just begun, and the flight will undoubtedly be long and hard. Straw use has been a daily part of our lives for most of our lives, and breaking habits is tough. The need for more people to go straw-less or find eco-friendly alternatives can be the difference between life or death for the marine life most impacted by our over use. We must be made to be uncomfortable before real change can happen. If this lengthy post hasn’t convinced you to abandon your love of plastic straws, please humor me and google the heartbreaking images of damaging impact it is having around our beautiful earth. Until next time friends, remember to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
KOB’s very own,