By Fredrica Syren:
Plastic straws are a common plastic pollution.
These days, you almost can’t go to a restaurant without ending up with a straw. We have gotten into the habit of ordering our food along with a “PLEASE, NO STRAWS!” whenever my family eat out. I totally understand that straws are necessary for some people, but the fact is that a whopping 500 million disposable plastic straws are thrown away every day in the U.S., which turns into pollution of our planet, especially our beaches and oceans. Disposable plastic straws are one huge part of the plastic waste plaguing our planet, and if we keep up this wastefulness, it’s estimated that by 2050, the plastics in the ocean will outweigh the fish.
For Seattle, the month of September is the “last straw,” literally, as residents and businesses in this state are joining the Lonely Whale Foundation to help reduce ocean pollution by giving up plastic straws for the month. (The project’s cute name, “Strawless in Seattle,” is a takeoff of the movie Sleepless in Seattle.) The project is part of the Foundation’s Strawless Ocean whose goal is to remove 500 million plastic straws from the U.S. waste stream in 2017. So far, most of Seattle is joining the pledge, so big businesses like the Seattle Sea Hawks, Seattle Aquarium, See Tac Airport, Tom Douglass restaurants and Seattle Mariners are skipping straws for the month of September.
As with most plastic, disposable straws are incredibly wasteful because they are used only for a very short time. Plastic straws are made of polypropylene (#5 plastic), and although some recycling programs sometimes accept this kind of plastic, they rarely are recycled and instead end up in a landfill where they will take 100 years to decompose — or worse — end up in nature as plastic pollution. The first problem with this is, of course, the carbon emission and pollution from manufacturing disposable straws. But, straws (just like other small plastic waste) also pose a huge treat to wildlife.
Check out this video of the dangers plastic straws pose.
So, yes, straws are made from plastic that contains harmful toxins such as PVC, BPA (the most controversial) or vinyl, which contains phthalates and heavy metals. Plastics also can contain other undisclosed additives that we have no way of knowing about since manufacturers are not required by law to disclose their formulas. When disposed, these chemicals leak into soil, water, wildlife and our bodies. These very harmful toxins cause damage to our hormones and nervous system, and create all kinds of problems and illnesses.
Do you wish to nix plastic straws, too? The best options in restaurants, smoothie bars and coffee shops is either to refuse straws or bring your own reusable straws made from metal or bamboo. You can also join the strawless challenge on Stopsucking.org
Learn more about plastic straws in the ocean here: