Plastic Straws Are Wreaking Havoc on Oceans and Marine Wildlife: Skip the Straw or Try These Sustainable Alternatives

Plastic Straws Are Wreaking Havoc on Oceans and Marine Wildlife: Skip the Straw or Try These Sustainable Alternatives

Even if you haven’t seen the disturbing viral video with the injured sea turtle, you know plastic straws are bad. So bad that in January, California became the first U.S. state making it illegal for restaurants to automatically provide them, an effort to reduce the 500 million used daily nationwide.

According to the World Economic Forum, by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic than fish pound for pound. Despite recent groundbreaking inventions that have successfully helped to clear the littered seas, plastic continues to end up in our oceans. According to the Ocean Conservancy, straws are among the top 10 items found during beach clean-ups. This is because the plastic tubes are too lightweight to be easily recycled, so they become trash and often end up in the ocean, polluting the water and eventually killing seabirds, marine animals, and fish.

But thanks to the efforts of organizations like the Surfrider Foundation in California and Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, a wave of change is sweeping the nation, encouraging more and more people to swap their plastic straws for paper. Also, passionate students involved in the Straws Upon Request campaign are trying to convince management at restaurants to only offer straws on request. How can you help? Before ordering, say: “No plastic straw, please,” and say why.

The Numbers

Straws

Here are a few important numbers about straws from the Surfrider Foundation:

8 million tons

Amount of plastic dumped into oceans every year.

50 percent

Percentage of plastic that is used once and then thrown away.

500 million

Number of drinking straws used every day.

91 percent

Percentage of plastic that isn’t recycled.

1,200

Number of animal species that are impacted by plastic through ingestion or entanglement.

90 percent

Amount of floating ocean trash that is plastic.

450

Years it takes plastic to degrade.

Alternative Straws

Straws drinking

If you want to help the environment, consider sipping through one of these other materials:

Bamboo

Pros: No changes in straw temperature

Cons: Change taste of beverages; difficult to clean

Get it at: Bambu Home

Glass

Pros: See-through so you know if they’re clean; no change in taste

Cons: Breakable; not as safe for children; not good for travel

Get it at: Simply Straws

Paper

Pros: Inexpensive; decorative

Cons: Change taste of beverage; get mushy, fall apart

Get it at: AArdvark Straws

Silicone

Pros: Easy to clean; long-lasting; durable

Cons: Odd mouthfeel

Get it at: Softy Straws

Steel

Pros: Not breakable; travel friendly

Cons: Not see-through; temperature sensitive

Get it at: Strawtopia

Straw

Pros: Biodegradable

Cons: Not durable; expensive

Get it at: HAY! Straws

This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Marin Magazine.

Join the Conversation

National Skip the Straw Day is Feb. 22, 2019. Join the conversation on social media by using #nationalskipthestrawday, #skipthestraw, or Shedd Aquarium’s #SheddTheStraw.