When I think about plastic disposable items like plastic packaging for certain food in the supermarket, I know it is not good for the environment but it serves a purpose, it keeps the food clean and fresh for people to buy and use, but when I stop and reflect about the daily use of straws for the majority of us I wonder: Why do we need a straw again?

These little plastic items are really wasteful and similar to our dear plastic bag  they are everywhere and we don’t even notice them. That’s why this week my post is dedicated to single use plastic straws and what you and me can do about it.

Key Issues

As you are probably aware majority of the straws are made of a type of plastic – polypropylene, therefore they don’t biodegrade, so once these items are released into the environment they’ll just break into smaller pieces and keep polluting it for years to come.

People leave them in the beaches or near water streams and because they are small and light-weighted, they rapidly travel from water streams to the oceans, where again they linger for sometime and break into micro-plastics which fish and other animal ingest.

Straws harm wildlife, you have probably seen this video (which I am not including it here because it can be a bit hard to watch for some people) filmed in Costa Rica where a straw is extracted from a sea turtle nostril causing a lot of stress to this animal. They think is very likely the turtle accidentally ate the straw and trying to regurgitate it ended up in the wrong place.

This doesn’t seem to be an isolated case, according to Unesco:

Plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals.

And precisely plastic straws was listed as one of the Top 10 polluters of the Ocean in 2016 based on an annual coastal clean up organised by Ocean Conservancy.

So let’s explore few things we can do about it.

Stop sucking!

This was the name of the campaign that Strawless Oceans released in 2017 to raise awareness about straws and the effects in the ocean.

I do understand some people need straws for different reasons, this is not about questioning the use of it under special circumstances, I myself have found straws really useful after certain medical treatments, but for most cases and most of us the regular use of straws is just unnecessary. 

Think about it, if they were so essential we would be using them every single day at home, but majority of us only use straws when we go to restaurants, bars or order take away drinks. It is just a habit! We can simply sip from the glass directly same way we do it at home.

Drink - no straw

Drink – no straw

Next time you order a drink just request “No Straw” even if you think your drink shouldn’t come with a straw. Once in a cafe I ordered a coconut water and in my naive mind I thought they’d pour the drink in a glass and done. Well, not really, they brought me the coconut water in its original container with of course a plastic straw.

Also don’t forget to refuse the straw if you are ordering take away drinks like sodas or even juices and smoothies, because they are usually served in plastic/paper cup with a plastic lid and of course a plastic straw. In those instances it is best to ask for no straw and no lid.

I try to avoid buying this type of drinks because they usually come in plastic, but travelling last year my body needed some extra veggies and I ordered a juice: no lid, no straw.  And instead of weird looks, the girl that served the order told us with a smile that it was so great that we were not using these plastic items. Who knows, maybe she does the same thing or maybe she was going to start doing the same thing too after that. You never know how a small act can influence other people even without you being aware.

It is a simple action that again needs repetition, I am sure you’ll forget it a couple of times I have been there, but if you keep committed it will become easier and easier (same as the plastic bag habit) and you’ll automatically remember to refuse the plastic straw.

Be the voice

Raise awareness about this issue, first with your family and friends, especially if you have kids, talk to them about it and why it is important. Most people (including business owners) are just not aware of the situation.

There are many restaurants and bar which automatically provide a straw with every drink they serve. If you observe that in any place you visit talk to them or send them an email and suggest them to only provide straws when people request them. According to Plastic Pollution Coalition:

“If businesses simply write on their menus Straws served upon request they will find 50-90 % of their patrons will not ask for a straw”

Recently I sent an email to a restaurant suggesting this and they were quite receptive and said they will implement the changes asap. And then I replied that I’ll visit them again soon (a bit of pressure maybe helps!).

This is actually a great move for the restaurants because they’ll save money too, it is win-win situation as the owner of a restaurant mentions in the video below:

If you need or like straws, think reusable

Reusable straws are not that common but they do exist. Nowadays you can find them in glass, silicone, stainless steel and bamboo.  So if you love your straw or for certain reason need to use them these are great alternatives.

They are light and portable, so you can carry your own straw and seat proudly in any bar/pub or restaurant showing a better option that many people around didn’t even know existed. Again, it can even ignite a very interesting conversation!

Mine is stainless steel and this is how it looks like:

Stainless steel straw

Stainless steel straw

Recycle plastic straws

If for any reason you end up with some plastic straws, here in Australia you can usually recycle them in your regular kerbside bin. The issue with recycling these type of items seems to be the size, according to RecycleBank:

Size is the biggest barrier to straw recycling. As plastic travels down conveyor belts while being sorted, small items like bottle caps and straws fall through the cracks and end up being sent to the landfill

Anyway is always best to try. Maybe you can put it together with other plastic container such as a squeezable bottle which are usually same plastic number (#5) hoping it gets recycled. Check with your council.

Again it is best to stop using disposable straws in the first place.

There is no one simple solution to all the environmental problems that we are facing today, but every small change and daily decision we make collectively are key to reduce our waste and the effects in the environment:

“When millions – billions – of people make ethical choices we shall see massive change. ” – Dr Jane Goodall

So I hope you have found some inspiration to give up plastic straws. Please tell me in the comments: Were you aware of the “Straw habit”? Are you ready to giving up Plastic Straws for good?

These are my social media accounts for more tips and personal experiences about living a more sustainable lifestyle

Thanks for reading,