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Plastic Straws Are Sooo 2018

Monday, April 29, 2019

Seeing straws that are made of materials other than plastic has become pretty common in the current century that we’re living in. Coffee shops are selling reusable straws with cleaners near their registers, drink vendors are offering paper straws, and online influencers have started encouraging others to stop using plastic straws.

Large companies such as Starbucks have made a commitment to eliminate as many plastic straws as possible. Their “forward thinking” goal is to eliminate all plastic straws by 2020. As an alternative, Starbucks has designed a standardized strawless lid that can be used for various beverages which have already been released. The company also plans to offer straws that are made from either paper or compostable plastic.

Other companies have announced similar goals that all revolve around the idea of reducing their environmental footprint by replacing plastic straws. Hilton and American Airlines share similar plans, which are to replace plastic straws with biodegradable alternatives. Hyatt, on the other hand, claims that they will offer “eco-friendly” alternatives and will only make plastic straws by request.

More and more people seem to be making the switch, large influential companies have been working towards producing straws made of alternative materials, and it has even come to the point where cities have been proposing a ban. But why? How are plastic straws really affecting our lives?

According to a study done in 2017, Americans are estimated to use about 390 million plastic straws a day. Plastic straws may seem to have a short life-span since it’s made to be a single-use product, but one straw is estimated to take about 200 years to decompose.

Straws are not the only type of trash that ends up in the ocean and becomes ingested by marine life, it is the eighth-most found trash item in the ocean as of January 2019. If we continue our actions, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean.

Photo credit: Lieke Van Der Vorst.

Some may argue that plastics are recyclable, but the problem is that, due to the straws’ lightness, mechanical recycling sorters aren’t able to process them properly.

Freshman Riley Jose is aware of how harmful plastic is to the environment and weighed in on how marine life is suffering from our actions.

“When seven billion people are using one plastic straw a day, it has an effect on the environment,” she said.

Jose attempts to limit her use of plastic straws by purchasing a metal straw that she tries to take everywhere or by reusing plastic straws that come with her order. She noticed how alternative methods for straws have been becoming more common and even mentioned how the restaurant that she works at has made the switch to paper. It’s as if straws made of alternative methods have become the newest trend.

“I like it even though it costs more, it’s a lot better for the earth,” she said.

Recently, numerous companies have been promoting eco-friendly products other than straws such as reusable meal kits as well as utensils. Ads for these products can be found on various social media platforms.

Science instructor Van Velasco believes that straws, utensils, and containers go together like a “kit,” which is why alternative materials for all the tools that we use on a daily basis should be encouraged.

Earlier this year, a bill was proposed to ban plastic straws in Hawaii but failed to pass. Velasco thinks that the bill should be modified to incorporate all plastic tools. Why waste your time making separate laws for each type of plastic that we use?

“People can’t just make a legislation about straws,” Velasco said. “Why not include utensils and containers as well?”

Although Velasco isn’t too worried about the effects of plastic straws as others, he considers straws to be just as detrimental to the planet like anything else made of plastic. He agrees with the increase in awareness regarding the straws since it brings attention to our planet’s health.

“If it’s going to be a tool to get awareness, then I agree with it,” he said.

Plastic may seem to be the least of our problems, but if we continue to live life carelessly, our planet will be dead soon and there won’t be a place for future generations. If we’re able to do something to reduce the environmental toll such as by simply bringing our own reusable kits for meals, why not?

“People should think in the long term about the health of the planet,” Velasco said. “Using reusable utensils will have a positive effect on future generations and the environment.”