A colorful straw is a symbol of summertime. Conjuring up images of drinks in sunny beer gardens or lazing around the pool, the simple piece of plastic guarantees successful sipping every time. If your cocktail comes sans straw you feel uneasy, like the bartender's committed a serious error. But while the straw has its charm it's also one of the ocean's worst enemies.
For the past few years, multiple 'Straw Free' campaigns have attempted to alert the public to the matter – but with limited success. While a few rare establishments have switched to biodegradable paper straws, many more have refused to take notice.
So as a quick reminder, we thought we'd run through a few reasons why we need to wave goodbye to the plastic straw for good.
Because it's hellish for the environment
A couple of years ago, a viral video showed images of a sea turtle in agony as vets attempted to extract a plastic straw from one of the creature's nostrils. Grunting, bleeding and squirming to get away, the animal is in so much pain the clip makes for some difficult watching. But unfortunately, this turtle was one of the 'lucky' ones, having been rescued just in time.
Taking some hundreds of years to break down safely, small pieces of plastic, like straws, are the perfect trap for marine life with fish and other creatures often mistaking them for food.
Because the facts are outrageous
- One billion straws are used and immediately thrown away EVERY DAY in the world...
- … 500 millions of which come from the U.S. alone...
- … which is enough to circle the Earth's circumference five times.
- Straws feature among the top ten objects most frequently collected on beaches.
- Every year, 1.5 million marine animals die after ingesting plastic in the ocean.
- Straws have an average lifespan of 20 minutes...
- .. they'll also take hundreds of years to biodegrade.
- Plastic straws cannot be recycled.
Because it's absolutely unnecessary
Beyond the small percentage of people who require them for medical reasons, straws are absolutely unnecessary for the average beverage consumer. Straws are now automatically shoved into most drinks, for the most part out of habit.
But it's a habit we've developed fairly recently. First invented in the 1950s, during the early years of the mass consumption era and the development of the fast-food culture, straws respond to an entirely superfluous 'need' that we ourselves have created.
Because it's not going to save your teeth
We all know a chronic straw sipper who claims that their habit is going to save their teeth bleaching job. But, unless they're shoving the straw behind their tongue and directly down their throat, it's safe to say, the liquid is definitely going to touch their teeth at some point.
If you really want to avoid cavities, avoid sugary drinks. If you really want to avoid stained teeth, brush your teeth after drinking tea or coffee. Your gnashers will thank you for it in the long run.
Because there are alternatives
- Firstly, we can systematically refuse straws at the bar and in restaurants and cut off the demand at its base.
- If you work in a bar, why not suggest switching to biodegradable paper straws?
- Finally, if you really do have trouble lifting a glass towards your face, there are plenty of reusable alternatives out there: bamboo, glass, stainless steel... With a bit of marketing, the reusable straw could even be the new must-have accessory of the future (hey, if the hand spinner and "Despacito" managed to conquer the world, nothing is impossible...).