Remember my last article on saving the planet? Surely, I am not talking about making extreme lifestyle adjustments, but every single little adjustment adds up to making a difference. I recently discovered in my research that even the smallest elements, such as eliminating plastic cutlery and straws, make a big difference in the world. The problem with plastic is very real, you can read more about it here.
Our oceans are polluted with plastic bottles, bags, and other rubbish. Furthermore, we don’t even realise that when we eat with plastic cutlery or drink from plastic bottles that we are basically poisoning ourselves and the planet. Amongst other dangerous chemicals, the most toxic substance is called BPA, a.k.a Bispehnol A. This toxic and cancer-causing substance can easily leach its way into our food and into our bodies. To read more about dangerous substances found in plastic, read this article.
overall problem with plastic straws
Last time, I focused on the general problem with plastic. This time, I aim to focus on the very specific problem with plastic straws. Did you know that more than 500 million straws are thrown away on a daily basis in the USA alone? These straws are single-use and 100% non-recyclable! In the UK, we throw away 8.5 billion plastic straws every year. To give you some perspective, this single use plastic waste is enough to fill up the Royal Albert Hall 1,000 times over. Worldwide, it is estimated that people use one billion plastic straws per day.
Once these are dumped into the ocean, the straw breaks down into microplastics. As a result, volunteers clean up roughly 2.3 million straws out of the ocean per month. When a marine animal consume plastic, which is inevitable, its mortality rate increases by 50%. Unfortunately, one can assume that plastic straws form part of the unintended diet of multiple marine life species. It’s rather worrying, isn’t it?
According to the Ocean’s Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup data, plastic straws are amongst the top 10 things found floating around in our oceans. You’ll soon understand why this is such a huge problem.
the image that changed my life
Have you seen the video of the turtle with a straw up its nose? If you don’t know what I am referring to, just take a look below and see for yourself. Viewer discretion is advised.
The first time I saw these images, it immediately had an impact and changed my view on the detrimental impact of plastic on the environment and on helpless animals.
You can watch the full video here. These pictures don’t even nearly reflect the excruciating pain of the poor sea turtle which you can clearly see in the video. I decided not to feature it here as it is too sad. This is just one example of how a single plastic straw can negatively impact the life of an endangered and helpless animal.
The amount of plastic straws found in the ocean is reaching alarming levels and something has to change. We must make a conscious effort to tackle this issue, be more responsible and stop being ignorant towards the cohabitants of this planet!
the essential questions
Stop for a second when you’re considering using a plastic straw. Do you really need to use this single-use object? You will most likely use it for five to ten minutes and then throw it away. Why not just use an alternative instead?
First, I am proud that the UK government has recognised the detrimental impact of plastic waste. It hopes to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by 2042. These include plastic straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers. It already introduced a 5p charge on plastic bags in 2015 which led to a drop of a significant 83% in the use of plastic bags from large retailers. Also, MP’s have banned products with plastic microbeads in them since January 2018. These include specific toothpastes, cleaning products and certain types of facewash.
Others have also taken action against plastic straws. The EU is pushing its member states to phase out single-use plastic found in the ocean by 2030. Also, California has introduced a new proposal for a imposing a plastic straw law where those establishments which serve plastic straws can be criminally prosecuted. Taiwan and the city of Vancouver also decided to ban plastic straws! So, as you can see, different countries around the world are slowly acknowledging the problem with plastic and finding solutions!
paper alternatives to plastic straws
Fortunately, there are alternatives to using plastic straw. The first being… just don’t use one. Abstinence is the key!
However, you can also use alternative straws made out of paper. Paper straws are currently the most common substitute top plastic straws. Not only are these recyclable, but they are not toxic. Did you know that the first ever paper straw was patented by a man called Marvin Stone all the way back in 1888?
Today, you can easily purchase paper drinking straws from Flying Tiger stores nationwide in the UK. You’ll only pay a pound for a pack of 16 which sounds like a great deal if you ask me! You can find your nearest Flying Tiger store here.
Paper drinking straws from Flying Tiger
If you are reading this in the US, then you can also find Aardvark’s Sea Turtle Eco-Flex® Paper Straws. These are a bendy paper straw, made entirely in the US from “FDA food grade-approved inks and paper”. The company Aardvark re-introduced the paper straw to the market in 2007 in response to the growing ant-plastic global movement. You can check out their catalog of eco-friendly straws here.
A third option is these really cute red and white paper straws from Rex London. Not only are they great for the environment but they are the perfect compliment to any barbeque or outdoor party. You can purchase them here.
Lastly, while still on the Rex London site, you can also pick up the summer meadow paper straws. They are a lovely addition for any party and are not your typical boring white plastic straw! Check them out here.
steel alternatives to plastic straws
Another place where you can easily find environment friendly straws are at Klean Kanteen. Klean Kanteen is very passionate about the environment, and they’ve created environment-friendly product lines, including stainless steel straws. The best bit is that you can re-use them time and time again. No need for any waste! You can find out more information on Klean Kanteen here.
You can purchase their 5 Piece Stainless Steel Straw Set in Black here. It is a reusable solution to disposable straws. So whether you are drinking smoothies, coffee or juice, these straws make it fun, easy and most importantly safe! These straws are made from high quality 18/8 stainless steel with a safe, food grade, removable silicone flex tip. The set comes with a Straw Brush made of 18/8 stainless steel and natural palm fibre bristles for easy cleaning.
what are you going to do?
So, now that you know that there are alternatives out there – what are you going to do? Join the global community against the use of non-recyclable and harmful plastic straws and help make this planet habitable with these small actions. Trust me, the switch to an alternative to plastic straws might just save an animal!