An estimated 500 million plastic drinking straws are used every day in America alone.
Every single day.
Using straws has become a habitual behavior for most people in the 21st century. As a matter of fact, the average person will go through 38,000 or more straws in 60 years.
It kind of goes like this: you go to your favorite fast food chain, pour yourself a fountain drink, throw a plastic lid on top, and pop a plastic straw right on in there. Or, it’s all done for you before you even drive up to the next window.
Plastic straws are everywhere (literally) and our society has been conditioned to use them like they’re nothing.
Like anything disposable, it’s quick, convenient, and makes for an easy clean-up. When we finish, it’s simply “out of sight out of mind.” But when considering our earth, its vulnerable ecosystems, and the health of our communities, the implications last far beyond the moment you throw your finished drink in the trash.
Here’s why you need to stop using plastic straws… right now.
Plastic straws are one of the most commonly picked-up items in the ocean
Have you ever wondered where all the disposed of plastic straws end up when we throw them out? Well, an overwhelmingly large percentage is floating around in the ocean as you read this.
Straws were the 7th most commonly picked-up item during the Ocean Conservancy’s 2017 International Coastal Cleanup. A total of 632,874 straws were collected.
Even more frightening, that number doesn’t account for the many straws that have broken up into tiny plastic particles known as “micro-plastics.” Today, there are at least 5.25 trillion micro-plastics floating on the surface of the oceans. They’re even scattered across shorelines and imbedded within seabed sediment. These mostly come from single-use plastics like straws and shoppings bags, breaking up over time due to photo-degradation (when the sun breaks the plastic bonds and cause fragments to flake off).
So how on earth do so many straws get into the ocean in the first place? To tell you the truth, they primarily get there through human error. They’re either left behind on the beaches or in communities and resorts close to the ocean. Or, they are littered more inland and eventually find their way into the ocean via the wind, inland waterways, wastewater outflows, and storms.
Every waterway leads to the ocean.
You may be thinking, “But I always make sure to throw my straws in the trash when I’m finished, so that won’t happen, right” Well, even if you’re trying to do the right thing, oftentimes they blow out of trash cans (especially the overfilled ones) and various transport ships and trucks.
And some cities just don’t have accountable waste management infrastructure, unfortunately.
Now picture this inadequate disposal and mismanagement happening in every city and country around the world.
It all adds up.
Plastic straws are seriously threatening the lives of marine and coastal animals
100,000 marine animals and 1 million birds die annually from accidental plastic consumption. It’s projected that by 2050, 99% of all seabird species will have ingested plastic found on the shoreline or floating on the ocean surface, and the mortality rate is expected to be up to 50%.
For these animals, straws and other single-use plastics like shopping bags are often mistaken for food. If you haven’t already seen the viral YouTube video of a sea turtle getting a plastic straw painfully removed from deep inside its nostril, these straws are making their way into all walks of marine and coastal life – including the many threatened and critically endangered species of sea turtles.
Even more frightening, those fragmented pieces of plastic (micro-plastics) are being ingested. These small particles can reach less than 5mm in diameter, which makes it very easy to lodge themselves in places like the gastrointestinal tracts of sea turtles. Plastic particles as small as 1 mm have been found in these animals.
Just when you thought they couldn’t get any smaller, nano-size micro-plastics have been shown to permeate cell membranes of mammals, birds, fish, and invertebrates and cause significant tissue damage. Not only do the plastic particles create blockages in their tissue, but they also transport a slew of toxic chemicals.
Plastic can remain in the environment way past our lifetime
In fact, it can remain in the environment for 2,000 years or longer.
Because plastic just doesn’t go away, studies predict that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight.
The plastics used in straws are potentially toxic to our health
Most plastic straws and other single-use plastics are are made from polypropylene, a type of plastic polymer commonly derived from petroleum. Though approved for use and considered “food-safe” in certain amounts by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, studies show that chemicals are leaching from polypropylene-based plastics and are contaminating our food, drinks, and thus our bodies.
According to breastcancer.org, plastic products may contain chemicals that can disrupt estrogen levels in the body and increase the risk of breast cancer in women. This is because the chemicals in most plastics act as “xenoestrogens,” a type of foreign hormone or “xenohormone” that imitates estrogen.
Almost all commercially available plastic products have shown to leach chemicals that have reliably detectable estrogen activity, even those advertised as being BPA-free (some BPA-free products even release more potent xenoestrogens than its counterpart). This is very concerning for children as well, since the estrogenic activity from plastic can cause adverse health effects at low doses during fetal and juvenile stages of development.
If that wasn’t enough, other chemicals are mixed into polypropylene which make its use even more concerning. The manufacturing of such plasticware requires the inclusion of numerous chemicals to enhance stability, durability, and performance. These added chemicals can sometimes contain xenoestrogens themselves, making it a double whammy.
We are literally eating plastic
That’s right. Marine and coastal animals aren’t the only ones consuming it.
Besides having straws leach potentially-harmful chemicals into our bodies upon use, we are actually eating (and drinking) plastic itself.
Besides our drinking water, plastic is making its way into our food. In fact, the most common plastic polymer found in commercial salt from 8 different countries was polypropylene (the infamous plastic straw polymer).
And it’s just as present in the fish being consumed. Plastic particles less than 1 mm have been found in a significant amount of marine animals and are thus making way onto our plates. Blood samples taken from mussels had tiny specks of plastic floating around in it. As a result, European shellfish consumers can have up to 11,000 microplastics entering their bodies per year from shellfish alone.
Fish with fatty tissue are expected to have even higher levels of contamination from plastic exposure, since fatty tissue is know to store a higher amount of chemicals and contaminants. The risk for greater toxic contamination increases even more through a process of “bioaccumulation.” As you move up the food web, these concentrations increase, making the consumption of fatty fish like salmon and tuna a huge health concern.
Still don’t believe me? Well, the poop says it all. These small plastic particles have been found in human stool samples during a pilot study.
Most plastic (especially single-use plastic) is not recycled
So now you may be thinking, “Well this sucks, I will make sure I recycle all of my plastic straws from here on out!”
I hate to be the downer, but there is a slim chance of that going well.
The share of plastics in municipal solid waste (by mass) has increased from less than 1% in 1960 to more than 10% by 2005 in middle- and high-income countries as result of shifting from reusable to single-use plastics. The amount is still increasing today.
What’s more, less than 9% of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic ever made has been recycled. 12% has been burned in incineration plants and 79% has ended up in landfills and nature (including the oceans). Something has to be wrong with this picture, right?
There are many reasons as to why this is happening. Yes, a lot of people don’t recycle. But those that do their part and throw their plastics in the recycling bin are often unsuccessful in the end (especially when attempting to recycle single-use plastics). Disposable, single-use plastics like plastic straws are by far the most difficult to recycle. This is because plastic straws and other small plastic items like plastic utensils fall through the recycling machinery at most recycling centers.
Also, many municipalities and towns don’t even collect this kind of plastic in the first place.
Refusing plastic straws fights the bigger issue
This good news is: there’s something you can do!
That is, to stop using plastic straws.
“How can one less person using straws really makes difference?” Well, say that this one person is 25 years old and they give up plastic straws today. That person will spare 32,120 plastic straws by the time they turn 80. Say that person inspires just one of their friends to do the same – that amount is doubled.
Asking to not get a straw with your drink not only helps reduce the amount of plastic waste, but it also helps raise awareness and potentially spark a conversation about it. Your influence is stronger than you think.
Straws are clearly not the only culprit of ocean pollution and plastic poops in humans, but they signify the issue of single-use plastic as a whole and the risks associated with them. Cities like Seattle are already jumping on board the anti-straw movement by actually banning them. These bans hopefully will help people recognize how much single-use plastic we’re actually using, and make us more conscious of our habits as consumers.
We’ve been on autopilot, but it’s time to take control.
But you don’t have to give up straws…
All you straw lovers, fear not! There are cool alternatives to use in place of the disposable kind that are better for you and the environment.
At StrawHopper, we make reusable glass straws. What makes our straws different from other reusable glass ones is the fact that they’re made with non-borosilicate glass. Borosilicate cannot be recycled, so we designed a formula that is not only reusable, but eco-friendly and fully recyclable if you happen to need a new one. Not to mention, they’re the perfect smoothie straw.
We also sell little travel bags to make it convenient to take your glass straw on the go. This way, the next time you order a drink, it’s easier to say no to plastic.
Our mission with this straw is to help you reduce the use of plastic straws and help start conversations about living more mindfully and sustainably. We hope you inspire others to do the same.
Plastic is so 1907.
Are you ready to make plastic-free, turtle-safe habits for 2019?
To a healthier and more sustainable future,
StrawHopper Glass Straws
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