The plastic straw epidemic


Public Domain

Annie Kelly, Copy Editor

Plastic straws are an epidemic that is having a large impact on our ocean life and ecosystem in general. America alone uses 500 million plastic straws a day. That’s enough plastic straws to fill 127 school buses daily and more than 46,400 buses yearly. According to Independent magazine, plastic straws take up to 500 years to decompose. While tens of thousands of these straws pollute our landfills, many more find their way into the world’s oceans.

Throwing away plastic straws is creating a major problem with our wildlife that needs to be addressed. Each year skyrocketing numbers of marine life and sea birds die from plastic pollution according to OneLessStraw, an organization that is campaigning to get people to take a pledge to go to reusable straws.

OneLessStraw is one of several organizations of its kind working toward a honorable mission: ending the use of single-use plastic straws. These organizations are doing a great job of drawing attention to the problem, making a huge impact on the number of plastic straws used in several areas across the nation.

While these organizations are gaining a lot of ground on a person-by-person basis, their campaign has also gained the attention of several franchises as well as many state and local governments.

Starbucks has made the eco-friendly decision to phase out plastic straws in all of their stores by 2020. In their place will be a recyclable lid created by Starbucks engineers. Starbucks’ program is just one of many positive programs put in place by multiple corporations due to this movement.

Many state and local governments are also taking the initiative and creating laws limiting plastic straws.

A recent California law would prevent full service, sit down restaurants from providing plastic straws to customers without the customer formally requesting one. This follows a prior law that put a tax on single use take-out containers in one California city, as well as the movement of banning plastic grocery bags.

This attitude is an important push in protecting our ecosystem that will soon not only have an effect on all of America but the world. It is incredibly easy to become a part of this movement.

There are several websites on which one can take a pledge to “go straw free”. While simply not using a straw is an option often overlooked for the sake of convenience, many online vendors are also offering more eco-friendly options to single-use straws.

Paper straws are a cheap alternative that can be ordered in bulk. These straws, however, still make a small impact on the environment as they are single use. They, however, are more biodegradable and use renewable resources. Glass straws are another popular option. They are easy to clean but do present some problems due to how glass conducts temperature. Silicone straws seem to be the best alternative for those wishing to reduce their environmental impact while still enjoying the basic creature comforts modern society is so used to. They are multi-use, easy to clean and temperature regulating. Reducing of plastic straws is important and several organizations and businesses are making it easier than ever.

Several other states are developing laws and regulations about plastic straws. New York City banned food-service providers from offer single-use plastic straws as well.

While this movement has not reached every corner of the nation in its full capacity yet, that day is quickly arriving. It is not unreasonable to believe that in the next several years every state will have laws regarding single-use plastic. There is no reason to wait for lawmakers to tell you what to do, however, as there are many alternative options to single-use plastic straws.

It is rapidly becoming apparent that going straw-free is not only the most eco-friendly option but may soon become the only option due to the many groups of activists fighting for change.