You may have noticed the plastic-free movement when handed an adult sippy cup on a Starbucks run. Wide-eyed, you turn to search for the familiar stockpile of green straws to assist in quenching your desire for that iced caramel macchiato. The realization that you must now drink your macchiato from this sippy cup comes as you remember that Starbucks no longer provides plastic straws.
In this moment, you are a part of a larger movement of individuals and companies throughout America trying to suck less. That is, a noticeable transition is being made away from single-use plastic straws toward more biodegradable, reusable, environmentally friendly options.
2018, whether you’re ready for it or not, has become the Year of the Straw.
Why Plastic-Free Is All the Rage
So why bother with straws? The plastic straw is easily replaceable, far more so than, say, the plastic toothbrush or Trader Joe’s salad packaging (so hard to say no to!). Because plastic does not biodegrade, like an apple core does, nearly every piece of plastic that has ever been created, still exists today. Unfortunately, that plastic has few other places to go than our landfills, streets, and oceans.
Researchers estimate that over 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic now reside within our oceans, sharing habitats with the fish we consume on a nearly daily basis in our shrimp tacos and $14 poke bowls.
If that wasn’t reason enough to grab that Starbucks sippy cup, researchers from the University of Hawai’i recently found that when plastics are exposed to sunlight and begin to break down, they release the powerful greenhouse gas of methane, one of the gases that contribute to climate change. The more single-use plastic that is produced and consumed, the more we risk harm to ecosystems around the world.
So, what to do? You can start to breaking away from single-use plastics by following the 5 steps below:
5 Steps to Breaking Up With Plastic Straws
Do I want to use a product that will be around for 5 times my lifetime? To completely decompose into carbon-based components, it would take both that plastic straw and the plastic cup holding that drink up to 500 years to do so. Think of an alternative, and if you’ve got it, proudly whip out your shiny new stainless-steel straw. Choosing consciousness over convenience can be trendy.
“I don’t need a straw with my drink, thanks.” Whether you’re at a restaurant, grabbing takeout and have non-plastic utensils to use at home, it’s as simple as that. Refusing single-use plastics is a conscious act.
Life can’t always be planned. If you forgot to refuse or are unable to for any reason, make a mental note to do next time. This is actively and consciously reducing your dependency on single-use plastics. Way to go!
I don’t recommend doing this with single-use plastic straws for health reasons, but I’m all for it with other items, such as plastic bags! For the few instances you receive a bag, use them mindfully for trash collection or dog waste bags.
Plastic straws cannot be recycled! Nor can plastic caps or many other items of food packaging. Unsurprisingly, these items are the ones most commonly recorded on beach cleanups in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) databases. Recycle what you can, and only as a last resort to the above Rs.
Embracing the Year of the Straw
Personal choices may seem small, but like the plastic straw themselves, the culmination of years of small choices can amount to a large impact. Whether that impact bodes well or poorly for the environment and your life within it is up to you. Once sustainable practices become part of your daily routine, there are only benefits to gain in the health of the environment, and by extension, ourselves.