September 26, 2022 – The North American Marine Environmental Protection Association (NAMEPA) received funding from…
Every day, Americans use 500,000,000 plastic straws and then throw them away. Arranging these straws end-to-end would create a line of plastic over sixty-two thousand miles long. That is enough to circle the Earth 2.5 times per day! These single-use plastic straws are threatening our health, environment, oceans, and sea life.
Strange to think that a little straw can be threatening- especially since they get recycled, right? Unfortunately, no. Straws cannot be recycled in most mixed recycling programs because they slip through the cracks and clog up the equipment.
Do the straws end up in landfills? Some do. And even though straws are small, at a usage rate of over 182 billion a year in the US alone, they take up a lot of space and up to 200 years to decompose. That is a very long time for a piece of plastic that was useful for about 30 minutes and made from fossil fuels that took hundreds of millions of years to form.
What about the straws that do not make it to the landfills? Those straws are called ‘litter’ and can be found blemishing our streets, playgrounds, and beaches. A good number of these straws get blown into storm drains, rivers, and watersheds, eventually ending up in the oceans and on the shores. Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup 2017 Report states that single-use plastic straws are the 7th most common item collected during waterfront cleanup efforts around the world and 6th most common in the United States.
As these straws are polluting the oceans and shores, they can easily become ingested by sea turtles, birds, fish and other marine animals due to their lightweight nature. This plastic ingestion eventually works its way up through the food chain and poses a threat to humans. (Learn more about plastic polluting our food chain here.)
What can be done? What is being done? The key to keeping single-use straws from harming humans, the oceans, and animal life is to prevent them from entering the environment by significantly reducing their use. The cities of Seattle, Miami Beach, and Malibu have already passed laws that ban single-use plastic straws either at the restaurant or city-wide level. And many restaurants around the world are no longer serving plastic straws in beverages, offering only paper straws upon request.
What can you do? Just skip the straw! When ordering at a restaurant, tell your server, “No straw, please. I want to Save Our Seas.” Also consider purchasing reusable straws made from stainless steel, glass, or another easy-to-clean material.
Want more information about the dangers of single-use plastic straws and how you can Save Our Seas? Check out our friends at OneLessStraw.org and OceanConservancy.org. They have great information and articles about how you can spread the word and Skip the Straw at your campus or place of work. And, when you sign the OneLessStraw pledge, you will receive a coupon code for a free glass straw!