Plastic Straws Suck! Biodegradable and Reusable AlternativesHot on the heels of the ripples created by Blue Planet's screening around the world, the UK is gradually becoming more in touch and mindful of the plastic crisis we are facing at the moment, both on land and at sea. While being a issue for any form of plastic, single-use plastic is by far the bigger threat. From shopping bags to plastic drinking cups, many find their way into our oceans all too often.
A less well-known culprit but the plastic drinking straw is still a big part of the problem. Such little fellows are used 500 million times A DAY in the US alone, according to the figures quoted by Clean Water Action; this is a whole lot of plastic. You may also have heard one of the articles that helped keep the drinking straw on the agenda; a viral video on the internet of a distraught turtle with a plastic straw stuck in her nose. This particular video has been viewed more than 21 million times and shows how much harm this tiny piece of tubular plastic can do.
Marine scientists in Costa Rica were shocked to find the endangered sea turtle Olive Ridley on a seaside field trip in Costa Rica. At first, they thought it was some sort of burrowing marine worm protruding from the nostril, but discovered after pulling it out of the turtle's nose that it was, in fact, a drinking plastic straw.
They just had a Swiss Army Knife aboard and in the extraction process they had to resort to use it. During the 8-minute ordeal the green sea turtle was obviously upset, which left it bleeding some time later. The bleeding stopped soon afterwards and the nostril was disinfected with iodine until the investigators found it necessary to release the turtle back into the water.
Big Tag Names
For a few workable alternatives, several big-name businesses are now starting to tackle the plastic straw problem. Wetherspoons Pubs have completely removed plastic straws while Costa Coffee has vowed to withdraw them entirely from their shops and then replace them with biodegradable ones. This announcement comes in the footsteps of other major brands like Wagamama and Pret a Manger who have already vowed in their shops to drastically minimize the use of plastic straw.
Pledges for store
Supermarket giants Waitrose have confirmed that they will stop selling them in the immediate future as Iceland has gone a step further and said they will ban all plastics from their own brand items over the next five years.
We are already facing a huge problem with plastics; since the 1950s, we have produced 8.3 billion tons of material. There are an estimated five trillion bits of microplastic in our oceans worldwide, wreaking havoc with marine life, aside from the volume already in waste and bobbing about in the ocean.
It is worth bearing in mind that because plastic takes hundreds of years to degrade, today every plastic drinking straw ever made is still in one form or another with us. It's a sad criticism of our throw-away attitude, given that their use in our drinks only lasts for a few minutes at a time before we chuck them out.
How Can We Help
An easy first move is to reject a straw choice at fast food stores, coffee shops, restaurants, pubs and so on. If you chose not to use one even though it is available, then you are already starting. Of course you may also expand this to refuse to use disposable plastic cutlery, and then ask for an alternate product. Although some may find it either impractical or a step too far, if you are sincerely committed to making a difference and lead by example, you may always opt to carry around your own cutlery.
Strokes on paper
While you might think paper straws are counter-intuitive because they're going to go all soggy after a couple of minutes, that isn't the case for those on the market now. If you check them out on Amazon, you'll see they're getting pretty good reviews and a fairly cheap pack for a big one. We will note that the striped ones of the retro red and white barbers look pretty funky too!
We can vouch for those first hand (actually the founder of this blog has one). As long as you don't want to drop it on concrete or smash it against a wall, these ones can last forever and can easily be carried around for everyday use. Plastic straws are made of petroleum and contain all sorts of nasty chemicals, both in the plastic itself and in the coloring used in its creation. A glass straw is a much safer option (and a much cheaper one in the long run). You can also get really sturdy ones made of borosilicate which is very solid, secure and similar to Pyrex glass dishwasher.
There's a lot of other choices, too. If you want one that will really be super strong, you can get titanium-made ones now. Travel over to RiceStraw to see their full collection, which also includes bamboo, stainless steel and natural wheat straws.
If you still want some ideas on biodegradable straws, then Drinkstuff will be happy to give you some cool, bendy plastic-like ones. These can break down naturally over the course of a few months after they have come into contact with heat , moisture or bacteria. We are made of polypropylene (a form of biodegradable plastic) and are definitely a better alternative to their non-biodegradable parents.