47957
42930

Opinion  

Plastic straws suck!

By David Suzuki

Of all the plastic products we use and take for granted, plastic drinking straws are among the most unnecessary. Designed to be used once and discarded, their only real purpose is to keep your mouth from touching a glass or ice. It made more sense in the days when contaminated vessels were more of an issue.

Now, there’s a movement to get people and businesses to ditch the straws. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is. In the U.S. alone, people discard 500 million straws every day, or more than 180 billion a year. That’s about 1.4 million kilograms of plastic sent to landfills and into the oceans every day!

The explosion of plastic’s popularity in the 1960s and into the ’70s spelled the demise of the paper straw. After that, most drinking straw innovations were as much about marketing as function — including the twisty Krazy Straw and the wide straw-and-spoon combo used to drink slushy drinks.

Plastic straws are now ubiquitous. Whether you’re ordering a takeout drink, cold coffee beverage, bar cocktail or glass of water in a restaurant, you’ll likely get a plastic straw unless you request your drink without it. 

Numerous campaigns have sprung up to get people to forgo drinking straws — or at least to use less environmentally damaging alternatives. Some restaurants have stopped automatically putting them in drinks, and others are using compostable straws, but most still offer plastic. 

As for alternatives, several companies sell re-usable or biodegradable straws made from metal, glass, bamboo, straw or paper. Some come with cleaning brushes. One company is even making straws from pasta, which can be cooked later! 

According to the anti-straw group the Last Plastic Straw, 80 to 90 per cent of marine debris is plastic, and as much as 80 per cent of that came from plastics discarded on land. Researchers estimate eight million tonnes of plastic garbage enter the oceans from land every year. Plastic straws are among the top 10 litter items picked up during beach cleanups, with thousands picked up every year. Cigarette butts are the most numerous items picked up, with plastic bottles and caps, food wrappers and bags also in the top 10.

Avoiding plastic straws won’t save the oceans or the world on its own, but as we’ve seen with plastic bags and public smoking, when people start thinking about their habits and making small changes, they can bring about shifts in consciousness that lead to wider societal changes. 

– David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation

COMMENTS WELCOME

Comments are pre-moderated to ensure they meet our guidelines. Approval times will vary. Keep it civil, and stay on topic. If you see an inappropriate comment, please use the ‘flag’ feature. Comments are the opinions of the comment writer, not of Castanet. Comments remain open for one day after a story is published and are closed on weekends. Visit Castanet’s Forums to start or join a discussion about this story.



More Opinion articles

Prospera Credit Union
Recent Trending

46573


45229


Previous Stories

47832


48013