Be Straw Free: How Straws are Sucking the Life out of our Planet

By: Kara Headley

There is a ton we can do in our everyday lives to help make the world a greener place.  We can reduce our consumption of materials by taking shorter showers or public transport, we can reuse water bottles and tote bags instead of wasting plastic, and any plastic we do end up using we can recycle.  But there are many things we use- nearly everyday- that we don’t think anything of- that are actually super wasteful.  This brings me to the drinking straw.

Next time you go out to eat, take a look around.  Every person will be using a straw for their drink.  And if they ask for a refill, their server will bring them a new cup with a new straw, and at the end of the day, all this plastic is thrown away.  This adds up.

According to the National Park Service, Americans use 500 million plastic straws a day.  That’s 1.6 straws for every person, every day.  Now, you might be thinking, straws are tiny, they hardly use any plastic!  What’s the big deal here?

The straws you get at restaurants are one-time-use, disposable plastic that is immediately thrown away.  One straw, no big deal.  500 million straws?  That’s roughly 127 school buses worth of plastic in landfills, every single day.  I don’t think I have to spell out just how wasteful that is.

The good news is that straws are, in fact, recyclable.  But the chance of your favorite restaurant taking the time to sort out the straws from the rest of the trash to recycle is slim.  Plus, when you go out for fast food and get a pop, you’ve probably never thought to recycle your straws before, so, once again, these straws are going to the landfill.  In reality, the best option when it comes to straws is to just stop using them.  You can’t throw away what you aren’t using.

The order is reduce, reuse, recycle, and it’s in that order for a reason.  The most important of the three is reduce, but we seem to mainly focus on recycle.  The reality of the situation, however, is that if we reduce our waste, there would be way less material ending up in landfills that is reusable or even recyclable.

Straws are just the tip of the iceberg; there are so many one-time-use products that are highly wasteful, or even unnecessary.  So next time you’re out to eat, do the environment a favor, and skip the straw.




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