Why Ban Plastic Straws
With all the attention plastic straws are getting in the media, you may be surprised to learn that straws are not the leading type of plastic waste. Food wrappers and containers take the number one spot, plastic bags come in second, and straws in third place. So why ban plastic straws?
The main reason for banning plastic in general, and especially straws, is how they impact our oceans and the marine life within them. Plastic waste in the ocean is a big problem—trash island and the viral video of a suffering sea turtle are two of the most well-known examples of the enormity of the situation. But of all the plastic that makes its way into the ocean, only 4% of it is straws.
So why are these little plastic tubes such a big target? Mostly because they are so small and inconspicuous. People often forget about plastic straws or think they are too small to worry about and don’t recycle them. We can turn bottles into beachwear, but plastic straws are so small that they are difficult to repurpose in a similar way.
On top of that, straws that do make it to the recycling bin often don’t make it through the recycling sorter since they are so small and lightweight. Instead, they contaminate recycling loads or get thrown away as garbage.
The average person uses an estimated 1.6 straws a day. Let’s do some math. If 25 people stop using straws, then 5,000,000 straws would be kept out of the oceans and out of the way of marine life. Since most straws will likely end up in the ocean, cutting back on using straws can make a difference.
What States Have Banned Plastic Straws?
A quick glance at the list below, and you can see that coastal cities are leading the charge in banning straws. It makes an impact when you see them washing up on the shore. Bans range from only giving customers straws upon request to complete bans.
- Alameda, California
- Berkeley, California
- Carmel, California
- Davis, California
- Malibu, California
- Manhattan Beach, California
- Oakland, California
- San Luis Obispo, California
- Richmond, California
- California State—upon request
- Delray Beach, Florida
- Fort Myers Beach, Florida
- Miami Beach, Florida
- Hawaii State—complete ban
- Monmouth Beach, New Jersey
- New York, New York
- New York State—upon request
- Edmonds, Washington
- Seattle, Washington
- Washington State—upon request
- Vermont State—upon request
- Washington, D.C.
- Vancouver, Canada
Six states have bans on plastic straws in one form or another, seven contains cities that are leading the way. All bans allow exceptions for those who must use a straw for medical reasons.
Companies That Have Banned Plastic Straws
- Marriot International
- American Airlines
- Bon Appetit
- Alaska Airlines
- SeaWorld Entertainment
- Royal Caribbean
Why Start with Plastic Straws?
How did this small part of a huge problem start a movement that has inspired cities and states to ban the use of plastic straws? Back in the day, we were all happy (sort of) sipping our drinks out of paper straws. But once plastic production took off, people realized that plastic straws were faster and cheaper to produce.
Now, we have the task of not going backward, as some might say, but of looking towards the future of our planet. While convenient, plastic doesn’t break down into biodegradable compounds. And when plastic is not recycled, it ends up in our oceans and stays there forever. An analysis of the trash collected on U.S. coastlines over the five years found nearly 7.5 million plastic straws strewn along America’s seashores and an astounding 437 million to 8.3 billion plastic straws along the entire world’s shores.
And since they do not biodegrade, they are with us forever. We also know that plastic straws account for 4% of all pollution on our planet, which gives us an inkling of how much plastic waste is laying or floating around.
Of course, not everyone is in favor of straw bans. Some say they ignore the needs of people with disabilities and won’t save the oceans. It’s worthy of note that straw bans generally have an exception clause for those who need to use straws for medical reasons. Criticism of these bans hasn’t slowed the movement.
Start Small for Big Change
We believe that even small changes can make a big difference, so while replacing straws seems like a small place to start, the ban straws movements bring attention to the issue of pollution and waste management. It also creates awareness of how everyday plastic products can affect the sustainability of our planet.
As this movement picks up steam, it can help us all become more aware of the impact commonly used plastic products have on the sustainability of our planet. This can hopefully help us make progress in reducing the amount of plastic waste in the world.
Plastic Straw Alternatives
The good news is there are many sustainable plastic straw alternatives available to replace plastic straws.
Cardboard and Paper Straws
Go old school with a paper or cardboard straw. Modern paper straws are much sturdier and don’t fall apart while you are sipping your drink. They can be printed with fund designs, logos, or whatever consumers want.
Glass straws are a popular substitution for plastic ones. You can find them in straight or bent versions, in different widths, giving you many alternatives to choose from.
Made from BPA-free, food-grade silicone, these straws are also increasing in popularity. They are also a good option for kids.
Because they last so long and are so durable, metal straws are generally considered an eco-friendly straw alternative. Many come with a case and a tool for keeping them clean.
A bamboo straw is durable and biodegradable, so it’s a win-win. They are 100% natural and made of sustainably grown bamboo.
Drink without a Straw
Drinking without a straw is the most ecofriendly way to enjoy a beverage, and you won’t have to worry about bringing your straw with you.