The phasing out of plastic straws has quickly become a trending environmental topic we need to adopt as our earth bears the brunt of human impact. We are learning more and more about how human behavior associated with mass production and consumption is directly linked to climate change. But oftentimes, there is a missing link and we cannot see the connection between, for example, straws and a changing earth. It’s not easy to adopt new rules and regulations without understanding their origins, but especially when we don’t clearly understand how our changed behavior can benefit us long-term.
So why are plastic straws under so much scrutiny? Like every other single-use plastic, they are marketed as “disposable,” and thrown out after a single use, where they spend the rest of their lifetime. Did you know that plastic can take 450 to 1000 years to naturally decompose?[i]
Along with this slow degradation process, chemicals within the sitting plastic leech out and into the surrounding environment. This affects the soil’s overall composition and health, and even disturbs the immediate ecosystem. Chemicals like BPA (bisphenol A) are found in plastics like bottles, bags, and straws, and is attributed with mimicking hormones and blocking natural hormones from working properly. This often leads to mutated genes and even cancer.
By banning plastic straws, a few things will be done. There will be a significant decrease in plastic straws in garbage, and thus significantly fewer will end up in landfills, or as land and oceanic pollution. This places a huge responsibility on businesses and consumers alike, and, although this might be difficult at first, it will force everyone as a whole to think greener. When we make environmentally conscious decisions, we are teaching ourselves to be smarter consumers at the same time. We stop accepting what large corporations say at face value and we start asking critical questions. Questions like how our products are being made, what is in them, and how they may affect us as well as the environment. That in itself can open our minds, and challenge things we consider norms versus what science teaches us now.
Some members of the disabled community are concerned, as they rely heavily on plastic straws. But alternatives are available to everyone, businesses are now selling reusable straws made of either stainless steel or bamboo materials. Both are great chemical-free alternatives. The remaining concern roots in our comfort in simply having straws around… Once we can finally get past this convenience, we can accept banning them altogether.
Some cities have already established plastic straw bans, including:
- California: Alameda, Carmel, San Luis Obispo, Davis, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Oakland, Richmond, and Berkeley
- Washington: Seattle and Edmonds
- New Jersey: Monmouth Beach
- Florida: Miami Beach and Fort Myers [ii]
Not only have these cities been successful in banning plastic straws, but no one was hurt, life went on, and the world did not end… in fact it became a little greener.
[i] Leblanc, Rick. “How Long Does It Take Garbage to Decompose?” The Balance Small Business, May 2018. Sep 2018. https://www.thebalancesmb.com/how-long-does-it-take-garbage-to-decompose-2878033
[ii]List of cities. Locker, Melissa. “Here are the U.S. cities that have banned plastic straws so far.” Fast Company, June 2018. Sep 2018. https://www.fastcompany.com/40580132/here-are-the-u-s-cities-that-have-banned-plastic-straws-so-far
All photos: Alyssa Perez