Ditch the Disposables, Go Strawless
May 22 2017
Did you know that in the U.S. alone we use and discard 500 million plastic straws every day? That’s enough straws to fill 125 school buses. Hopefully they all make it to a landfill (FYI they are not recyclable) rather than wind up on a beach, in a creek, or out in the gyres of plastic trash in our oceans. No matter where it goes, that plastic represents a whole lot of non-renewable petroleum going to waste.
Plastic drinking straws fall in the category of “single-use plastics”. These items are typically used just once – on average for only 12 minutes – before being discarded and is estimated to be about 50% of the plastic we use today. Much of it is not recyclable nor does it break down in the environment. As much as 8 million tons of plastic waste ends up in our oceans every year. It hurts wildlife, threatens safety on the ocean, fisheries, and human health. In shoreline litter clean-ups, plastic straws are consistently one of the top 10 items collected. Need more convincing? Check out this turtle video. Warning! It’s tough to watch.
Fortunately, awareness of pointless plastic straw pollution is spreading. This past Earth Day the Shedd Aquarium asked everyone to join them and #SheddTheStraw. Check out their super informative video below. A big player in the drink world, Bacardi, has even begun a campaign to remove straws and stirrers at company events.
The Final Straw: Reduce, Refuse, Reuse
Plastic straws are unnecessary for most of us – but that doesn’t mean you have to go entirely without. If you need a new eco-goal, ditch the disposable straws! Here’s how:
Step 1: Don’t buy them for use at home. This one’s easy.
Step 2: Refuse: When ordering drinks (including water) request your drink without a straw. Bonus points for educating your server about why. This step can be surprisingly difficult! It’s easy to forget to ask and then kick yourself when your cup arrives, straw and all.
Step 3: Replace: If you’re a fan of straws there’s no need to live a deprived, strawless life. Do you find you drink more when you have a straw? Do your kids love juice boxes? Do you hate the feel of ice cold water against your teeth? No fear – there are plenty of options out there and they come in different materials, widths, lengths, and styles.
Replace: Reusable Options
There are tons of reusable straw options nowadays – different widths, lengths, colors and more (they’ve even got bubble tea fans covered). You can also buy or make a carrying sleeve for on-the-go. While you’re at it, make a roll that will hold your reusable silverware too!
What about the clean up? Most reusable straws come with a tiny straw brush for washing that makes it quick and easy. If you’re looking for a fully non-plastic brush – you’re covered. Some straws are dishwasher safe. If you use straws a lot or have multiple family members, it may be smart to buy a multipack.
Lasts forever and can be recycled with scrap metal. You can get these with or without a bend in them.
There are a lot of brands selling glass straws. Hummingbird, Glass Dharma, and Strawsome are a few. They come in all sorts of colors and some even have fun decorations on them. Learn how break-resistant they are.
Reusable Juice containers (for those juice box aficionados)
This 10oz set from Reduce is popular. There are others that look more like juice boxes like these and these. If you want to shun the plastic there are durable steel options from Kleen Kanteen and Hydro Flask, or even glass. Many have options to buy sport caps that are more spill proof.
Eco-Friendly Single-Use Options
Reusables are truly the most sustainable option but there may be occasions where they could be impractical. Say, for a big party (what an opportunity to educate!), if you run a restaurant or cafe, if your [insert loved one here] keeps throwing out the reusables accidentally (I’m sure this has happened to someone). These options are all natural products that will break down eventually. But remember, you are still consuming resources!
Paper Straws – no plastic so eventually these will break down, compost them if possible!
Food straws! As a kid, did you ever drink soda through a Twizzler? Or sip something sweet through a pirouette cookie? How about pasta straws?
Now ACT! Action Changes Things
Take a No Plastic Straws pledge and share it on your social media. Take the next step and consider reaching out to local restaurants – the Last Plastic Straw has cards you can keep on hand and even a bilingual handout. If you’re looking for an even bigger challenge, go for the month-long Plastic-Free July challenge – avoid all single-use plastic for 31 days.
Reach beyond yourself. Check out this sample legislation for your town, county, or state to make plastic straws by request only wherever they are served. It only takes 10% of a population to buy into an idea for big change to take place. Be part of that 10%!
Sources & Resources
- Be Straw Free Eco-cycle
- Straws Documentary Film
- The Last Plastic Straw
- Plastic Pollution Coalition
- Straws Suck…Don’t They? (And Why It Doesn’t Matter if People Disagree) – Treading My Own Path
- Sample Legislation: Straws By Request Only
- Davis, CA Beverage Straw Ordinance
- Seattle Straw & Utensil Ban: Seattle Times news story; City of Seattle Food Package Requirements
Plastics & Plastic Pollution
- Living in the Plastic Age – Smithsonian
- Ocean Trash – National Geographic
- Tons of Plastic in Arctic Ocean – LA Times
- World’s Oceans Clogged by Plastic Trash – Scientific American
- How a Grassroots Effort is Taking Plastic Straws Off the Menu in Boulder, Colo. – Waste360 07/24/2017
- A Campaign to Eliminate Plastic Straws is Sucking in Thousands of Converts – Washington Post 06/24/2017