"Say No To Straws!" The Truth About Plastic Straws
How are straws harmful to the environment?
Many of us don't think twice when served a straw at restaurants, or when disposing of them after a single use. And for many, it has been conditioned into us to think that it is safer to drink out of straws for bacterial purposes. Most places just serve them as default, so it's just another norm ingrained in our culture. It’s estimated that Americans (collectively) use 500 million plastic straws every single day (1).
As most plastic, these straws are made from petroleum-based plastic (polypropylene, PP). No wonder why the ban of plastic straws is opposed by the big oil companies - another way for them to make money and trash our Mother. On top of plastic straws being made by the extraction of fossil fuels, most of them are non recyclable (Long Beach and most of LA doesn't recycle them). Plastic straws usually end up in landfills or into our oceans - and when they do begin to degrade, they release harmful toxins that can pollute aquatic ecosystems and ultimately destroy the environment (2).
The 2014 list ranked straws as the number five most popular found item behind bottle caps, wrappers, and cigarette butts to be found trashed in our oceans (3).
Do they have an effect on our health as well?
Yes. Toxic chemicals: There are many health concerns related to the use of plastic; most of you have probably heard of BPA (bisphenol A, a chemical known to be release toxins in their making and degrading process) which is harmful to the environment and human health. In-depth studies that focus on the effects of BPA are still being held, but studies so far find that it could correlate to cancers (specifically breast and heart diseases), obesity, infertility, and brain alterations (4, 5). So straws are pretty much a direct way for the chemical to enter our system as we are literally sucking the drinking water we drink out of a petroleum-based, chemical leeching utensil.
Bloating and constipation: Also, studies suggest that the use of straws can disrupt and effect our digestive system - as we are sipping water through the straw, we also are swallowing a bit of air each time. This can lead to uncomfortable bloating and gassing, and for some, even constipation (6).
Wrinkles: Like people who smoke cigarettes, the use of straws can overtime contribute to wrinkles around the mouth as the repetitive action of puckering up can leave marks in the long run (7).
Tooth Decay: This one is a well-debated topic, so you might want to form an opinion after doing more research. However, many dentists are against the idea that drinking out of a straw helps to fight tooth decay - they say that it is more so equivalent using or not using a straw (8). So why not just not use a straw, right?
What can I do to make a difference?
I try to make it a point that whenever I eat out, I order my water or drink without a straw (simply specify that you do not want one) if they usually bring them to customers by default.
If you just love the feeling of straws, or just really can't say no to them, simply buy your own reusable straw and carry that around with you. You can buy metal or bamboo reusable straws at your local convenience store for a really affordable and reasonable price.
We must slowly turn away and break old habits from our desire for convenience. Co-founder of the Ocean Recovery Alliance, Douglas Woodring says about single-use plastic straws, “the vendors think the consumers want, and the consumers are too slow and can’t be bothered to say they don’t need one when it’s served to them.. both sides are complacent in the problem. People are simply numb to this issue.”
We are the change we want to see. Take part - baby steps guys, everything is everything, it all counts.
I hope this was insightful for you, and that you will join us in moving toward a greener future! I invite you to take this step of saying no to plastic straws and moving away from single-use plastics. Let us all keep doing our best to educate and make small changes in our everyday lives - it all starts with us.