With the advent of technology, our lives have become more convenient. At the same time, these conveniences often come with negative effects. For instance, the simple plastic straw. It comes with almost every cold beverage we enjoy on a daily basis. It may look harmless, trivial even. In fact, it is one of the most common hazard to our environment.
Why Plastic Straws Are Bad for the Environment
They are non-biodegradable. In order to understand the environmental impact of straws, it is important to know the difference between biodegrading and degrading. Biodegrading is when an item can be naturally broken down and digested by micro-organisms, and then naturally recycled into new organic molecules and life. Degrading, on the other hand, is just the process of breaking down into smaller pieces. When plastic degrades, the bulk of the plastic will seem to disappear—however, what’s really happening is the plastic is breaking into smaller, invisible pieces that will always still be on Earth. With that being said, plastic straws take up to 200 years to degrade, but will never be fully off the Earth, as plastics are not biodegradable. To make matters worse, the degrading of plastic releases chemicals that are toxic to wildlife and the environment.
They are not easily recycled. Most plastic straws are made of type 5 plastic (polypropylene). Even when they are recyclable, this material is not usually accepted by most curbside recycling programs, and because of this, it is difficult to recycle them. They end up in landfills and even in our oceans.
They harm ocean life. Plastic straws never fail to make it on the list of one of the most found ocean litter whenever there are coastal and ocean clean-up drives. And, as of early 2018, data from Ocean Conservancy’s TIDES system shows us that straws are the 11th most found ocean trash in cleanups, making up about 3 percent of recovered trash. All these straws and plastic polluting our oceans is having a negative impact on marine life. Below is a video that explains how plastic straws wreck our oceans.
The infographic below will tell us everything we need to know about the hazard of plastic straws.
How We Can Fight This Hazard
Recycle plastic straws. There are several ways to recycle plastic straws. We can find several DIY projects online that make use of plastic straws, most of them are decorative. By doing this, we can help eliminate plastic waste. Here is a link to some crafts using plastic straws.
Refuse plastic straws. When possible, skip the straw. There are beverages that we can enjoy even without the aid of plastic straws. For example, the next time you go to a restaurant, make sure you request for your drink without a straw. Many restaurants serve straws with drinks even without a request, so make sure you ask for “no straw” before you order.
Switch to reusable straws. There are eco-friendly alternatives to plastics straws: bamboo straws, glass straws, and stainless steel straws. We can switch to these alternatives and help eliminate plastic waste as well. Not only it is hygienic, it is also stylish. Good reusable straws are durable and easy to clean, as they will come with a special cleaning brush. They will usually cost around a dollar to three per set. Below are photos of reusable stainless steel straws of different color per set; each set comes with a special cleaning brush and a pouch.
There are several more ways we can reduce the use of plastic straws. Share your ideas and let us know in the comment section below how else we can eliminate plastic waste and save Mother Earth!