Although a single plastic straw may not seem like a big deal, when you look at the bigger picture and realize there is an estimated 500 million straws used on a daily basis in the US alone – you start to realize that reusable straws do really make a difference among an enormous problem for our environment.
Let’s get more specific here so we can understand why this is such an important issue. Plastic waste which is for the majority broken down into tiny particles floats in huge clunks amid ocean current patterns called gyres that together cover as much as 40 percent of Earth’s ocean surface!! Therefore, our oceans are literally swimming with plastics. It is estimated that there are currently 150 million metric tons of plastic in our oceans – humans add to this amount by 8 million tons per year which is on average five grocery bags full to the brim with plastic on every single foot of shoreline around the globe!! According to recent research if these current trends continue plastic in the ocean will outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050!
Public concern and outcry in recent years has inspired movements to ban single – use plastics, of which straws are a key focus. In fact, seemingly overnight, plastic straws have become environmental enemy number one.
Why should you care about these issues?
Well, it affects your life in a lot more ways than you might think! Microplastics pervade the oceans – they are found in almost 25% of the seafood in markets and even the salt on your table! Plastics also reach freshwater systems such as rivers – which in turn reaches tap water supplies. One recent survey found traces plastic in 94% of tap water samples and a large majority of branded bottled water! Research is still ongoing to determine the effects this plastic has on human consumption, but we already know today that some chemicals that attach themselves to plastics in the water can and does cause cancer, genetic disruptions, and other illnesses.
Will switching to reusable straws have a positive impact?
Agreed the problem is a lot bigger than reusable straws V single use plastic straws – given that plastic straws are only a fraction of the problem. However, banning single use straws is the first step and a natural place to start a fundamental shift away from all single-use plastics across the value chain. Of all the types of plastic we could reduce and regulate, there are a few good reasons to target plastic straws specifically.
(i) They are easy to do without—a low-hanging fruit in the vast battle against plastic disposables, (simply put, use a reusable stainless-steel straw instead!),
(ii) Unlike many other single-use items, it is essentially impossible to recycle plastic straws.
(iii) Thirdly, there are over 500 million plastic straws used just once for about 20 minutes and thrown into the trash daily around the world.
So think wisely next time before asking for a straw at your local restaurant! Reusable straws really do make a difference! 🙂