Plastic drinking straws are used for an average of 20 minutes before being thrown away. They then live on in the environment for approximately 600 years until they start to break down into smaller pieces of plastic. For able-bodied people, they aren’t necessary for consuming beverages. Have we found the most pointless form of plastic pollution yet?
Consider the following:
- For the majority of able-bodied people, straws are unnecessary luxuries for consuming beverages. For those with physical disabilities, they are important assets for drinking and functioning independently.
- There are approximately 8.3 billion straws on global coastlines worldwide
- Plastic straws can’t be recycled due to their light weight: mechanical sorting machines can’t detect their weight. They often end up dropping into other recycling lots, contaminating the materials, and are too small to separate.
How Has This Happened?
We’ve been enjoying drinking straws for thousands of years – the oldest straw was found in a tomb dating back to 3,000 BCE. Paper straws were used from the late 1800’s up until the 1930’s, until plastic became mass-produced and was more efficient for single-use items. Today, around 500 million plastic straws are used every day in the U.S. That’s 1.6 straws per person, per day. Every plastic straw will end up in landfill or the natural environment because they cannot be recycled: their lightweight body fails to be detected by recycling machines.
As of spring 2020, the city of Vancouver has banned the use of unnecessary plastic straws as part of their single-use item reduction strategy. The law caters to all food and beverage suppliers. However, the by-law doesn’t apply to plastic straws attached to drink pouches or packs of straws sold for personal use from retailers.
This means, you can still go to a friends cocktail party and the host might’ve opted for little plastic cocktail straws for your margarita. What do you do?
- Reusable straws – If you must use straws, opt for reusable ones. They can be made from glass, wood, bamboo, and investing into a pack of reusables will save you money in the long term.
- No Straws – Sometimes it’s as simple as remembering that we don’t need straws to consume liquid, besides those with physical disabilities who crucially need plastic straws for consumption. Straws can make you drink more, causing more harm than good to your body – you can easily end up consuming too much sugar, alcohol or caffeine because it’s harder to gage the volume of liquid you’ve consumed.
- Refuse The Straw Whenever Necessary – Not all businesses will be on the straw-banning-bandwagon. If you’re vacationing in another Country, particularly places less developed, remember to refuse the straw when it’s automatically placed in your Pina Colada. It might feel like a pointless act of conflict, but the bar would rather know that straws aren’t a necessary expense for them if enough people are refusing them.