If you’ve ever ordered a drink at a coffee shop, restaurant, bar, or fast food chain, you were probably automatically handed a plastic straw with it, without hesitation. The use of straws have become incredibly (and frighteningly) commonplace in our culture, and most of us enjoy using them.
We’ve had them in our lives since we were little kids, whether they were slapped on our juice boxes or handed to us with a smile at McDonald’s, so for many of us, we subconsciously associate these behaviors with happy childhood memories.
But have you ever thought about where all these straws come from or where they go when we’re done using them?
Every day, Americans alone use enough straws to wrap around the world 2.5 times. That’s the same as filling up the Yankee Stadium over 9 times in a year. Now picture that plus the unfathomable total global consumption.
Even though one straw seems quite small in the grand scheme of things, clearly they’re all adding up.
Thankfully, we live in a time where there are alternatives to these suckers. If plastic straws are still going to be sticking around for a while, it’s up to us to do something about it.
After all, it only takes 21 days to change a habit.
1. Plastic straws are toxic polluters
Straws and other single-use plastics are wreaking havoc on our planet. This bit of plastic that takes a just couple of minutes to use can remain in the environment for 2,000 years or longer.
As a result of improper waste disposable and mismanagement, they’re making way into coastal and marine ecosystems. Not only are they getting lodged into the noses of turtles and the beaks of seabirds, but they’re breaking up into micro-plastics that get imbedded in sand and pass through the cell membranes of all kinds of mammals, birds, fish, and invertebrates. They’re also making their way into our bodies through our tap water, salt, and food.
Studies predict that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight.
If that wasn’t enough, using these straws can be toxic for our health when using them. Disposable plastic straws are made our of polypropylene, and studies are showing that chemicals are leaching from polypropylene-based plastics. These plastic chemicals can mimic estrogenic activity in the body (even if the product is BPA-free) and increase the risk of breast cancer in women and cause adverse health effects in children.
Interested in learning more? Check out the last post, Why You Need to Stop Using Plastic Straws.
- Why waste when you can reuse?
Society is used to taking a cradle-to-grave approach. This refers to a 3-step series of stages that products go through: 1) created using raw resources 2) used by consumers, and 3) end up as waste. It essentially means the lifecycle of a product from “life to death.”
This perfectly sums up what goes on with disposable plastic straws. They’re single-use, which means they’re designed to be used only once.
Simply put, using plastic straws = unnecessary waste.
The most environmentally-friendly solution is having a cradle-to-cradle approach that utilizes circular design. Or, in other words, a closed-looped system where products are created and can be reused or recycled over and over again, optimizing the entire lifecycle of a product.
At Strawhopper, our reusable straws are made with a special kind of non-borosilicate glass that allows them to be continuously reused. Another benefit of using The Strawhopper glass straws is they are made with recyclable glass by the manufacture so there is no waste when making these plastic straw alternatives.
- Don’t worry, they’re easy to clean
Many people are too used to the convenience of getting handed a plastic straw, enjoying their favorite drink, and never having to worry about seeing it ever again when they’re finished with it.
It may seem like a burden to clean and carry around a straw, but it really isn’t.
When you’re finished using your reusable straw while on the go, all you need to do is give it a rinse in a restroom or at your work. Just make sure to rinse it right after you finish your drink to make sure no smoothie bits stuck to the inside.
Then later on when you get home, throw it in the dishwasher or give it a scrub using some soap and a straw-cleaning brush. If you’re going to be using your straw more than once during the day, that brush is small enough to take with you in your bag/backpack wherever you go.
All of Strawhopper straws come with one!!!
4) Reusable straws way better for your smoothies
The great thing about reusable straws is that they can do way more than disposable straws can.
Ever get an extra thick smoothie and no matter how hard you suck you can’t get it through the straw? So frustrating.
With a reusable glass straw, they are smooth and can handle those thick yummy smoothies! These smoothie straws come in the perfect size that are a little larger than your average glass straw size so you can enjoy your thick smoothies with ease!
5) You get to take responsibility for your own waste
Why leave it up to businesses to tell us what to use? If restaurants, cafes, and bars are not going to invest in a reusable product as they do their utensils (forks, knives, drinking glasses) then we should bring our own.
When you bring your own glass straw, you take a position of power and responsibility. Not to mention, it gives you a sense of empowerment and satisfaction knowing that you, as an individual, are doing your part to make a difference in the world.
6) You’re voting with your dollars
You have the power to vote!
As consumers, we vote every day for what we like and support through our spending. Say you are gluten-intolerant. Every time you go to the store and purchase gluten-free bread, you’re using your purchasing power to tell the store that they should keep carrying that product.
Imagine if everyone that went to your favorite bar started saying “no plastic straw, please” with every drink that they order? If there is less demand for them, then that bar would most likely start ordering less. Or, maybe it would make them want to invest in reusable straws.
In addition, your purchase of reusable straws casts votes for that company’s product. Whether it be a small business or a large department store, you get to support their sustainable efforts.
7) While paper straws are better than plastic, there are issues with that too
Cities across North America have already banned or are in the process of banning disposable plastic straws, so paper straw alternatives are making an appearance at many establishments like coffee shops, cafes and major restaurant/fast food chains.
Paper straws are a better choice since they pose less of a risk to the environment, but they’re not the best when all things are considered.
First thing’s first is their practicality. A popular complaint about paper straws is that they get soggy while sitting in a drink.
Secondly, they’re quite wasteful.
When thrown out and shipped to a landfill, these paper straws cause similar issues that plastic straws do. They don’t breakdown (though for different reasons). Do we not find old newspapers still existing in landfills today… YES this is because of the lack of oxygen in a landfill, even natural bits of food cannot decompose properly.
Landfills are meant to store trash, not break it down. And, unfortunately, paper straws can’t be recycled after their use. This is if you live in a county that has a good waste management system set up and a lot of places dealing with these issues do not.
However paper straws can decompose in the ocean fairly quickly so we can say they are biodegradable if they happened to end up there, they’re still a form of unnecessary waste mistakenly eaten by marine life. Is the solution in a single use paper straw when it still falls into the “cradle-to-grave” category?
You’re better off with a reusable and sustainable option.
8) You will set an example for others
Asking to not get a straw with your drink and using a reusable one instead not only reduces the amount of plastic waste, but it also helps raise awareness and potentially spark a conversation about it.
No matter what, conversation or not, others will take notice and may reconsider their own actions.
Your influence is stronger than you think.
9) It makes you more conscious of your waste in general
From personal experience, ditching plastic straws and using a reusable one gets us thinking about how much single-use plastic we’re actually using, and make us more conscious of our habits as consumers.
Creating new habits like this may prompt you look at your lifestyle as a whole.
10) It makes it easier to say no to plastic straws
If you’re a straw lover, having a reusable one on hand can help you say no to plastic.
Because human errors happen and we may leave our straw in the sink one morning as we rush off to work, it may be a good idea to stash an extra one in your bag for backup use, or even in your car or bag/backpack right after cleaning it so you don’t forget.
Carrying around a reusable straw is the same as carrying around a pen or pencil. It barely takes up any space and is too light to even notice.
You can purchase a StrawHopper glass straw set that comes with two different straws, a cleaning brush, and a cloth travel bag to make it more convenient!
Ready to start saying no to plastic straws?
To a healthier and more sustainable future,
International Coastal Cleanup
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