by Katherine Martinko
You’ll never need another plastic straw after you read this.
The anti-plastic straw movement grows stronger by the day. Campaigns are springing up around the country, urging people to hold the straw with their next drink, understand why this is such a big deal, and discover reusable alternatives.
The numbers are sufficiently shocking to make anyone want to change their habits. Americans use an estimated 500 million plastic straws daily – enough to fill 127 school buses and circle the earth’s circumference 2.5 times. Five hundred million straws weigh about the same as 1,000 cars (close to 3 million pounds), which is a massive amount of plastic to throw in landfills on a daily basis.
Straws, which are made of a petroleum byproduct called polypropylene mixed with colorants and plasticizers, do not biodegrade naturally in the environment. They are also nearly impossible to recycle, so nobody really bothers. Some are incinerated, which releases toxic chemicals into the air, but most end up in the ground, where they will hang around for an estimated 400 years and leach chemicals into the ground. That means that every straw ever used still exists on this planet.
Fortunately, resistance is growing stronger, and several interesting efforts to promote the straw-free message have gained traction in recent years. There are also more companies offering reusable alternatives to plastic straws.
Check out the following list of resources to learn how you can get involved, educate others around you, and banish plastic straws forever from your life.
The One Less Straw campaign has its official start on October 1, but individuals, businesses, and schools can sign up now. It has a nifty accountability system whereby, for every straw that you accidentally use (i.e. you forget to tell the server you don’t want one), you have to pay into a fund that will then get donated to your school to promote environmental education. (See TreeHugger story here.)
The Last Plastic Straw urges restaurants and bars to change their policy to “straws available upon request,” in order to get people thinking about the issue and drastically cutting down on the number handed out each day. This group inspired Bacardi to launch its “Hold the Straw” campaign.
U-Konserve, seller of reusable food storage containers, has a fabulous Pinterest page called “Switch the Straw” with many helpful links to anti-plastic straw campaigns, infographics, and alternative products. U-Konserve is also offering a free straw-cleaning brush with the purchase of any reusable straws right now.
Straw Sleeves is a U.S. company that manufacturers cute little cloth bags to store reusable straws for easy accessibility when you’re out for dinner or drinks. It also has an active Instagram account with some great content, including facts about plastic pollution and photos of abandoned straws in beautiful natural settings, which is enough to inspire anyone to change their habits!
Where to find reusable straws:
Glass straws – Glass Dharma makes borosilicate glass straws that come in a variety of lengths and diameters.
Strawsome also sells handmade glass straws, made in USA with lifetime guarantee and free US/Canada shipping. They come in different colors, shapes, diameters, and lengths.
Bamboo straws – These 10” bamboo straws are entirely unprocessed; they’re just dried hollow stalks that can be washed, air-dried, and used for many years.
Bambu Home sells slightly shorter straws, at 8.5” long. They are made from organic bamboo, harvested from wild groves, rather than plantations, and are finished with an organic flax seed oil.
Paper straws – Paper straws still generate some waste, so they’re not as good as reusable options, but a huge improvement over plastic. You can order from Aardvark Straws (made in USA).
Straw straws – Straws that are made from straw? It’s the most logical material out there. This company has an online store set to open in October 2016, so you’ll be able to place orders shortly.
Pasta straws – It’s the ultimate zero waste solution and kids will love it. Look for bucatini or perciatelli, long spaghetti-like, tube-shaped noodles with holes in the middle, through which it’s possible to sip liquids. Then you can cook your straws and eat them for dinner.
Get ready to watch the STRAWS documentary film, currently undergoing production. It will delve deep into the disturbing world of plastic straw pollution, one of the top five marine polluters. Filming is supposed to be done by autumn 2016. Learn more here.