The Last Straw
Two mojitos and one Pina colada, oh, and please hold the straws, we brought our own.
My friend Michelle shares links with me every time she reads about a campaign to fight plastic. She gets me; I hate plastic waste! That is one of the reasons that I created PagaBags.
Recently, Michelle shared a surprising campaign against plastic straws.
The problem with straws is the sheer quantity. According to the campaign over 500,000,000 plastic straws are used each day in the United States. In only the past 20 years, plastic straws, not one but two (!), have become common with every cocktail, generating extreme quantities of waste for minimal convenience.
The average straw lasts 20 minutes before it is thrown away. Most straws today are made from petroleum. They also have a cocktail of chemicals to make them flexible, ultraviolet light filters for light resistance, additives to make a pretty color. It takes up to 200 years to decompose, but it does not disappear due to its chemical make up. It degrades into tiny particles that bio accumulate. According to The Last Plastic Straw, a project of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, essentially every piece of plastic ever made is still in our environment.
Among the most despairing facts about plastic waste is its impact on marine life. Fish, turtles, and mammals mistakenly consume plastic of all sorts causing suffocation, starvation, or even drowning by entanglement. I came across a thought-provoking article by Clean Water Action on the problem of marine plastic pollution. Their description of an autopsy of a California grey whale washed up on the shore was particularly sad. The whale's stomach contained a pair of pants, a golf ball, small towels, duct tape, surgical gloves and -- you guessed it -- more than 20 plastic bags.
I remember being on the beach in Cap Haiti in 2009. Plastic bottles had washed ashore by thousands as a result of the oceans current. Here is the picture I took:
There are numerous organizations that have created alternatives to plastic straws. Aardvarkstraws.com sells compostable paper straws; Brushwithbamboo, StrawFree and Bambuhome all offer straws made of bamboo stalks; Simplystraws makes straws with reusable glass and Ecoatheart with stainless steel.
So, if you cannot imagine sipping a nice cold drink without a straw (which I fully relate to!), start asking your local bars for these alternatives!
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