Globally, we produced 300 million tons of plastic a year, of that 10 % ends up in our oceans. The estimated ratio of plastic to plankton is 1:2 currently, and unless we change our ways, scientist estimated that plastic will outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050.
So why target plastic straws? The UK and USA through away 550 million plastic straws A DAY. On average a plastic straw is used for 20 minutes before it ends up in the bin. These straws take over 200 years to breakdown. Before that process even begins, straws littered our beaches and injure animals. Watch this video of a sea turtle having a straw removed from his nose recently to see what damage straws can do (warning, the video is graphic). Even when the straw begins to break down they don’t actually break down but turn into tiny bits of microplastic which damage the marine environment and even end up inside of us (if you like your seafood). The health issues related to microplastic and the chemicals they potentially absorb is little known at the moment.
So what can you do? REFUSE STRAWS. Most of us do not need a straw to help us drink, we don’t use a straw to drink our cup of tea or cold drinks at home, so why is it ingrained in to us to expect a straw at a restaurant or bar.
Some bars, pubs and restaurants are taking actin for us. On the 14th June 2017, All Bar One announced they will be stopping providing the 13,000 straws they currently give out a day to their customers. Strawwars has signed up 72 businesses in Soho who are stopping the use of plastic straws, as are restaurants and bars in Birmingham. Businesswaste.co.uk is suggesting a 5p tax on straws to help lower consumption. The 5p tax on plastic bags introduced in autumn 2014 saw a reduction in use of 85 % in the first 6 months and raised £22.7 million for charities. A similar tax could help turn the tide on plastic straws.
What if you need a straw? Lot’s of alternatives have appeared over the last couple of years to replace the plastic straw. Though many are more expensive than the plastic straw, which is why stopping using them is the best way forward. Companies now exist that offer stainless steel and glass straws that can be reused or biodegradable straws that just need to be composted. Universities, governments and companies have also discovered ways to fully recycle all plastic and turn it either into a fuel or back into another plastic product. All of these ideas and products will help us tackle the issue of plastic disposal on a large scale with investment and incentives to encourage companies and individuals to use them. In the mean time, refuse that straw and any other unnecessary plastic, campaign and help save our planet!
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