Plastic Straws

At Safari Ltd, we realize that nobody’s perfect, and that definitely includes us. But we try to do what we can to work toward a better world that future generations can enjoy. Sometimes little things we do can help get the ball rolling to make a big difference.

One of the most well-known environmental issues making the rounds today that you may have heard of  is the case of the plastic straw. Why are plastic straws getting so much attention lately? And how can you help reduce the waste issue caused by these and other single-use items?

 

What’s So Bad About Plastic Straws?

Plastic straws are just one of the many items contributing toward the world’s total plastic waste output, so why is there so much focus on them? It all began when a video went viral showing an unfortunate sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose. While straws were an issue before this 2015 video surfaced, they were really brought to the forefront by the heartbreaking image of this poor creature suffering due to plastic waste.

Lots of straws end up in landfills or get washed out to sea, ending up as plastic pollution. But what makes straws different than other kinds of plastic? Straws are made out of polypropylene, which is a recyclable type of plastic; however, plastic straws are often not recycled. Why? Mainly, it’s because of their size and shape. As recyclables are sorted, smaller items like straws often slip through the cracks and end up getting lumped in with non-recyclable trash.

While plastic straws are just one part of a larger problem, it’s estimated that millions of these drinking utensils are used every day – so cutting back is a solid first step toward reducing single-use plastic waste.

 

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A Sea Turtle, similar to the one seen in the infamous video Plastic waste affects many creatures in the ocean

 

Where Do Plastic Straws Come From?

The original straw was a hollow tube made from a rye grass stalk. This was the common way to drink until a man named Martin Stone created the first paper straw by gluing pieces of paper into a tube shape in the late 1800s. For almost a century, paper straws were the way to go, until plastic straws were introduced in the 1960s and quickly rose to popularity.

While some consider plastic straws to be just a convenient, disposable way to sip a beverage, some individuals with certain physical disabilities depend on straws to consume liquid. While alternative straw types are available, including more durable paper straws, glass straws and stainless steel straws, these offer challenges for disabled individuals since they may be less durable and need cleaning and maintenance.

Before plastic straws, disabled people had a much harder time drinking beverages. So while plastic straws seem like a simple luxury for some, to others it is more of a necessity.

 

What Can We Do About Plastic Straws?

So what’s the solution? Should we ban plastic straws altogether? Some businesses and cities are doing just that. Some restaurants are offering reusable metal straws to customers, and some beverage companies are developing new lids for their drinks that will eliminate the need for straws in most cases. Some straw companies are creating more durable paper straws that can last longer than older versions, which would quickly wilt or become soggy in liquid.

But is an all-out ban the answer? Many of the bans that have gone into effect contain exemptions for disabled individuals who require a flexible, plastic straw, but not all businesses are aware of the rules. Ideally, the ultimate goal is to change peoples’ habits so that plastic straws are used only when necessary, rather than with every drink.

If less people use plastic straws who don’t need them, we can help to slowly phase out the non-essential use of these single-use items. A focus on straws, while it may just seem like a drop in the bucket, can help raise awareness of all single-use plastics out there, and why it might be time to re-evaluate some of the common items we wastefully use just once, and then toss away without a second thought.

If you’re wondering what you can do yourself, the first step is limiting the amount of plastic straws you use. There are many alternatives made of different materials, including stainless steel and glass. You can also reach out to businesses and companies to ask them how they plan to address their own plastic straw use. If we all work together, we can begin to change the world one step at a time!

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