Renewable Energy & Sustainability News

What is so bad about plastic straws? A lot…

In 2018, it seemed that everyone – en masse – became conscious of the tube that enables them to imbibe more readily, and the damage that said tube causes the environment. But why? How did plastic straws so quickly become Public Enemy No. ….6 or 7?

A good part of that “blame” goes to an organization named the Surfrider Foundation, “a community of everyday people who passionately protect our playground – the ocean, waves, and beaches -that provide us so much enjoyment.” They declared 2018 “the year we say goodbye to straws,” and built a coalition of environmentalist groups to help lobby and push their message out.

And it is having an effect – in the summer of last year, Seattle became the first city to ban the use of plastic straws and utensils. New York and San Francisco are not far behind. Beginning in January of 2019, full-service restaurants in California are banned from automatically giving people straws with their drinks.

So What’s The Big Deal? Plastic Straws Seem Pretty Harmless.

Not if you consider these facts:

A Journey Begins With a Single Step

It may not surprise you that plastic straws are not the biggest culprit – not by a long shot. Food wrappers and containers account for about 31% of plastic waste, with straws landing at about the 4% margin. What organizations like Surfrider are trying to do is begin to raise public consciousness about the simple things that people can easily do, slowly but surely, to have a positive impact on the environment.

They want you to regard the straw that you receive when you get a beverage at a restaurant – is it really necessary? Can I not lift my drink another two inches and drink it straight from the lip of the cup or glass? I do it at home all the time, after all. Eliminating 4 percent of the plastic waste is a nice start, and begins to get people thinking about all of the other unnecessary plastic items they can eliminate from their day-to-day lives.

If You Must

Of course it’s not straws themselves that are the enemy – it’s the plastic. And for small children and the disabled, straws are a necessity. This Difford’s Guide has a list of alternatives to plastic straws that are eco-friendly.

In the meantime, you can ask your bartender or server to withhold the straw. And the way the trends are moving, it may not be an issue for long anyway, as bans on straws begin to spread from Seattle, San Francisco and New York to the rest of the United States.

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Cari Oberfield