Sunday, September 11, 2016

Straws, the next plastic bag...

September seems to be straw awareness month, as the online buzz brings an awareness factor of how we are not thinking about the consequences of using and discarding plastic straws day after day.  The statistics are repeated post after post, not just how many straws are used each day, (500,000,000 per day in the USA alone) but also how long it takes for the plastic to degrade. Well, it actually does not - plastic straws are made to last - get this - HUNDREDS of years!  Not so good for something you use for a few minutes and then toss it.

Plastic straws are accumulating at an alarming rate, and just like the plastic bag that faces bans in most areas, straw use is being scrutinized!

My work in the reusable straw industry for the past 9 years has introduced me to many amazing warriors on the straw front.  But let's be serious here, it's not just straws. It's the idea of single use consumerism in a "throw away" society. The consequences of our habits, if we do not pay attention and try to change some of our once accepted behaviors, will be problematic for many generations to come. 

Leading the way are a number of organizations and projects to help us understand the idea of how we might change our thinking and choose differently.

StrawSleeves on Instagram follows numerous beach cleanup operations, some highly organized, some just a lone soul or small family that go out every day and pick up trash in parks, on beaches, and on city streets. Photos posted of what we all leave behind, collectively speaking, are graphic, disgusting, and the photographers are true heroes that care enough to make a small dent in an atrocious problem.

Celebrities like Ed Begley Jr., Jack Johnson, and Adrian Grenier bring awareness out into the public eye by their examples and convictions that the public has a responsibility toward the care of our planet. This is one thing that we all share regardless of fame, the fact that we all live here on planet Earth.
Graphic credit
UKonserve posted on their blog that they estimate their own reusable straw sales have saved 74,000,000 plastic straws from the waste stream! Impressive number! They even tell where to buy cloth cases made for all types of reusable straws and include a link to a tutorial showing how you can make your own carrying case, After all, it's hard to refuse the plastic straw if you do not have your reusable straw along for the ride.

The Last PlasticStraw and One Less Straw are busy offering ideas and incentives to participants in their campaigns. The Surfrider Foundation provides guidelines and information to businesses through the Ocean Friendly Restaurants website that is quickly signing up Hotels and Restaurants to stop supplying plastic straws to customers and to implement "straws on request" policies. Milo Cress of Be Straw Free founded this idea when he was just 9 years old. Now, if children can figure this stuff out, we should all be able to come up with some collective solutions on a grander scale!

StrawSleeves reposted a Starbucks video and questioned the news story that they were sticking to green plastic straws due to children harming themselves on the stainless steel straws they were providing as a retail option. Some of the commenters wondered about the quality of the stainless steel straws (most have rounded edges) and the "safety" of a rigid plastic reusable straw in the case of a child falling with the straw in their mouth. 
Starbucks, we know you can do better!

STRAWSfilm is currently in final stages of film production. This important documentary will be made available to educational institutions, lobbyists, and government forums for the better understanding of the impact of our accumulative straw use. The film includes interviews with the biology team that extracted a plastic straw from the nostril of a sea turtle last year. The video went viral on a global scale!

With so many choices of reusable straws, there are still many who cannot get past the desire to stay with single use straws. The good news here is that there are paper straws, while somewhat wasteful, they do eliminate many of the harms of the plastic factor in toxicity and how long they last. One company is manufacturing straws inspired by the history of the "first straw", made of - straw!  Rye grain is farmed and harvested, and the remaining straw is specially cut and cured to create a truly renewable single use straw!

Whether you refuse, reuse, or just start to reconsider, change is in the winds and the wonder age of the "Tupperware Age" conveniences have been found to be not so convenient after all.

1 comment:

OMG Kids said...

Thanks so much for posting this and for the shout out about our OneLessStraw Pledge Campaign ;-)