Are Paper Straws the Answer to Plastic Pollution?

Plastic straws have become public enemy number one over the last few months

Plastic drinking staw

With environmentalists and private companies, most recently Starbucks banning plastic straws.

Videos and pictures of plastic waste have been shared around the globe and with the announcement that the Great Garbage Patch is larger than expected has sparked a global movement.

Although, so far in response we’ve seen a handful of plastic straw bans but straws themselves won’t be abolished all together.

Since the push to remove plastic straws from the food industry has gone mainstream, many have pushed back citing the need for “plastic” straws for people with disabilities, as the flexibility functions as the only option that allows them to drink.

However, that hasn’t stopped a large number of private companies, municipalities and states to outright ban plastic straws.

These include:

Private Companies
Walt Disney Company, Starbucks, McDonalds, Recipe Unlimited (Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s), A&W Canada, IKEA

Municipalities
New York City, CA - Alameda, Carmel, San Luis Obispo, Davis, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Oakland, Richmond, and Berkeley, WA - Seattle and Edmonds, NJ – Monmouth Beach, FL – Miami Beach and Fort Myers

States
Hawaii, and California

What Do We Do Now?
Since we’re now beginning to establish focus on the plastic straw which seems to be both, a reduction in the number of plastic straws used and the elimination in particular.

It’s time to implement feasible alternatives. Here they are:

  • Paper, biodegradable paper, glass, and stainless steel/aluminum

Paper straws, although being the most common alternative so far is actually not an alternative at all.

It’s garbage too.

Unless specially made to be biodegradable, wax and thin plastic liners inside the paper straw render them garbage.

Biodegradable straws are still single-use, although not plastic, and glass is simply too fragile and dangerous to be used especially with children.

The real winner in this conversation is the stainless steel/aluminum straws. They’re durable, washable, compact (some condense onto a keychain), and 100% recyclable once they reach the end of their life cycle. They are reasonably priced, come with a specialized cleaning tool, and can be customized with silicone tips for use with children.

Aluminum strawWhat Does It All Mean
What started the movement calling for the “Beginning of the end for the plastic drinking straw” was a video of a plastic straw being removed from a turtle’s nose.

The video reviewed the harsh realities of the global plastic waste problem as a whole and the negative human impact it has on our habitats.

Banning all plastic straws is only a band aid to end plastic waste, but it at least sparked a global awareness about how we as a society use “single-use” plastic items, and how pollution has a real, tangible, and visible effect on our environment, oceans and marine life in particular.

It may be a single small item, but it’s making an impact far beyond the cup.

Article written by Jason Gale - Environmental Coordinator on September 19th, 2018