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Protect Marine Life by Saying “No Straw Please”

Updated: Dec 9, 2019

Over 500 million plastic straws are used each day in the United States. Unfortunately, straws are made from plastic and are too lightweight to be recycled. To make matters worse, straws don’t just end up in the landfill; they end up in the world’s oceans. Plastic straws are consistently listed in the top 10 items that are collected from the oceans.

When straws are littered, left on beaches, blown out of cans and vehicles, or fall into gutters and storm drains, many of them will eventually make it to the ocean. Once in the ocean, those bits of plastic get smaller and smaller without ever decomposing; making it far too easy for marine life to ingest the tiny bits of plastic. An estimated 71 percent of seabirds and 30 percent of turtles have been found with plastics in their stomachs. There’s a 50 percent mortality rate with marine life that’s ingested plastic.

It’s a shame that this is where so many plastic straws end up. In order to prevent them from ending up under water, we have to look at where they come from.

Think about all of the to-go items from restaurants that end up in the trash: sandwich wrappings, fry containers, soda cups, napkins, ketchup pouches, bags and…straws. While there are many things that could be done differently to eliminate some of this waste both from the consumer and business side, you can start easily and simply with the straw. If it’s a question of necessity, for more people, there’s a strong argument that you don’t really “need” straws like you “need” napkins. Straw or no straw, you’ll still be able to drink your beverage.

Looking at dine-in restaurants, it’s interesting to note that you rarely ever have to ask for a straw. It’s just expected that your beverage will come with one. On the management side of that restaurant, think how much money they would save if they listed straws as “available on request” and didn’t automatically assume everyone wanted one. In fact, in a couple of cities, legislation has banned or limited the use of plastic straws in restaurants. However, in food establishments where they do automatically give straws, you could simply say “no straw please” when ordering your beverage.

That really is a simple solution, isn’t it? If you want to help keep plastic out of the landfill, out of the oceans, and out of the stomachs of fish, turtles and birds, just say, “no straw.”

Although the “no straw” approach is preferable, it’s important to remember some people use straws to reduce the damage of sugary or acidic drinks to their teeth. And some people with disabilities may rely on straws. In these cases, a reusable straw could be a good fit. Based on your personal preference, you can choose from a variety of materials: bamboo, stainless steel, glass and silicone. There are some exciting developments being made with rigid paper straws, edible seaweed-based straws and totally collapsible reusable straws.

For most of us, it’s time to look at single-use plastic straws as a thing of the past; no matter how convenient they are. We’re certainly allowed to have convenient products, but with plastic straws, you’re choosing convenience while placing turtles, seabirds and other marine life at risk. Consider the consequences, make an informed decision and always keep an eye out for items that CAN be recycled.

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