Plastic Straws: bad for the ocean, bad for winkles

This is going to be one of those posts that starts out as an idea for a 3-5 minute read, but after researching, turns into its own encyclopedia volume. Yes, there’s that much to learn about the whole plastic straw debacle: the myths, the truths, the good, the bad and the downright ugly (or the part about wrinkles).

Plastic straws aren’t the root of the problem—PEOPLE ARE
It’s fabulous that Americans are taking note and curbing their straw use, but the problem—and the solution—are, unfortunately, far more complex. Here’s why:

  • Habits are hard to break. People use straws. People want their straws. SOLUTION: People need to be retrained.
  • Most straws are used in restaurants (not at home) and when your discarded straw is carted off by the busser, you are relying on them to recycle it—not just throw it in the trash. SOLUTION: Restaurants stop automatically giving out straws; consumers stop using them.
  • Not all curbside recycling programs pick up straws which means that if you put them into your recycling bin, they’ll end up polluting other recyclable material, or … yea, in the trash anyway. SOLUTION: Limit straw use and check with your recycling company to see what they do and do not recycle.
  • Straws are small and far too many people still have the well-what’s-one-straw attitude and don’t understand that yes, one straw plus another, plus another and another and another and another … well, you get it. SOLUTION: Realize we are all part of the problem, just as we are all part of the solution.

In the U.S., on average people use 1.6 straws a day; that’s more than 500 million a day. And that’s unacceptable.

480px-Symbol_Resin_Code_5.svgWhy can’t we just recycle straws
There’s more than one kind of plastic. Duh. And not all plastics recycle as well as others. Plastic straws are made from a derivative of petroleum, Polypropylene. In itself, polypropylene is a recyclable material (although it takes a considerably high amount of energy to recycle) but not all recycling plants are equipped to handle straws. Why? They’re just too darn small and more often than not, they slip through the small openings in conveyor belts at the sorting facility; which in turn means they end up in landfills rather than being repurposed.

Are paper straws the answer
Depends who you ask. Sure, paper is a more recyclable material, but if any kind of coating is used to prolong their structure (so they don’t desinigrate before you finish your drink) then the initial problem remains. So yes, using paper straws is better for our world than using plastic, but lets not encourage manufactures to add any kind of plastic coating, inside or out. Just sip faster folks ; )

And what’s this I hear about noodles
OK. For those worried that your drink is going to start coming with a hollow, dried noodle, I can (almost) guarantee you that’s not going to happen. Although I’ve heard rumors. (Joking people, just joking.)

Listen, I’m not a scientist and quite frankly, I don’t understand why straws are so hard to recycle. I mean what is it about that number five?? BUT. What I do know is this: since the majority of recycling plants can’t recycle straws, it’s our responsibility as consumers to stop using them and to demand manufactures stop making plastic straws. It really is that simple. Stop. It’s basic economics. Supply and demand. We stop and the manufactures will stop. And just like that MAYBE we’ll be one step closer to saving our planet and all the lovely creatures that roam the plains, swim the oceans, fly the skies ; ) Yes, that means humans too.

As for the wrinkle part … scrunching up your mouth to suck on a straw causes wrinkles. Really. Puckering is bad. Really bad. So have a little vanity, its OK. It just might save the world.

Take the No Plastic Straw pledge. Do it. Learn more about plastic pollution from the Plastic Pollution Coalition.  

Coming up NEXT on the blog … flatbread with crème fraîche and lox and more on the wild-caught vs. farmed debate.

Want more from The Midwest Mermaid? Be sure to follow along here, and on Instagram for all the latest in seafood news and chews | @shaunanosler

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

DISCLAIMER: I’m a writer and an editor. And I try my best to make sure every post is articulate and free from errors. However, being that I edit my own work—and it’s next to impossible to properly edit your own work—I admit, occasionally there may be an error or two I miss. But doing so doesn’t make me an idiot so don’t be mean. Just smile, pat yourself on the back for finding an error and be glad you’re not the only one who makes mistakes sometimes … yes, even mermaids slip up every now and then. xoxox