You grab your favorite bottled drink and next you reach out for the straw. You almost never ever forget the straw. It’s a natural action that you hardly pay attention to, right? But did you know that with this simple action you are causing untold harm to the planet?
So exactly why are straws bad for the environment?
Plastic straws are a small part of the single-use pollution pandemic plaguing our planet. Every day, millions of people around the globe throw out plastic bags, forks, cups, and straws after just one meal or grocery run.
Using a straw in itself is not the problem. The problem is that plastic takes a very long time to break down. It is believed that it takes over 500 years for just one plastic bag to decompose. It could even go up to 1,000 years!
You may not realize it but the simple joy of gulping down your drink via a straw could plunge the planet into a serious environmental disaster. If we don’t quit plastics now, by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Imagine that.
Why Are Plastic Straws Bad for the Environment
Plastic straws are so small that we don’t take much note of them. We don’t pay attention to what we do with them after we’re done using them.
Here’s the thing, straws are one of the most common types of single-use plastic. You’ll hardly ever use a plastic straw more than once. You finish your drink, you throw the straw in the trash.
The problem with plastic straws is that they are one of the biggest causes of unnecessary plastic pollution. Most plastic straws are made from harsh chemicals making them impossible to reuse or recycle. They are also not biodegradable and cannot be broken down naturally by bacteria and other decomposers into non-toxic materials.
Additionally, most plastic straws are too lightweight to make it through the mechanical recycling sorter. They get bypassed by the sorting screens and end up getting disposed of as garbage. When this happens, the straws often wind up in landfills or, even worse, the ocean. Researchers at the University of Georgia found that between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean annually.
Speaking of oceans, plastic straws cause the most havoc when they end up in our oceans, but how do they end up there? One way is through human error. People leave plastic straws on beaches in coastal communities and seaside resorts. Another way is through getting blown out of overfilled trash cans or transport boats and vehicles.
Once plastic straws make their way into our lakes, rivers, and oceans, they put aquatic life in danger of ingesting them or being exposed to the toxins that leach from the straws.
Related article: How do Plastic Water Bottles Affect the Environment?
In most cases, and quite brutal, some wildlife, like sea turtles, sea birds, and marine mammals, get trapped or ensnared in plastic waste.
Aquatic animals also tend to eat plastic straws, which can make them sick or even kill them. Millions of turtles, seabirds, and other wildlife die each year from complications directly related to consuming microplastics produced by plastic items such as straws as they decompose.
Research shows that a whopping 70% of seabirds and 30% of turtles have ingested some type of plastic from the ocean.
It’s also believed that 700 species of marine life have consumed some plastic in the course of their lives.
Related article: Plastic Bag Recycling Facts
Alternatives to Plastic Straws
You now don’t have to wonder why are straws bad. What you need to do is to stop using them. Yes, it’s as easy as that.
In the recent past, there has been an active push from different parties to remove plastic straws and other single-use plastics from our everyday lives. This is because of all the reasons we’ve seen that explain why are plastic straws bad for the environment
But what if I like slurping a smoothie through a straw? You wonder. That is totally ok! Luckily, there are lots of alternatives to plastic straws. Some of the best alternatives to straws include:
- Reusable metal straws: The best way to reduce waste is to reuse. Get a stainless steel metal straw that you can use multiple times.
- Bamboo straws: Bamboo straws are reusable and biodegradable. They are also durable, super sturdy, and will hold up when drinking any type of liquid.
- Paper straws: Paper straws are biodegradable and come in different colors, themes, and sizes making them a favorite especially for kids.
- Compostable straws: Compostable straws have a similar feel and look to plastic straws but are better for the environment because they are made from renewable material.
Related article: The Effect of Plastic Bags on the Environment
Why Plastic Straws Should Be Banned
Plastic straws continue to wreak havoc and it’s no wonder why most concerned people want them banned.
While it may take time for this to happen, you can play a big role in eradicating plastic pollution by saying no to straws. It may seem like such a simple action, but trust me it will make an enormous difference to our environment!