Plastic Straws are Just the Start

Written by Mikayla Brody, 2018 Marketing Intern.

Reusable straws are all the rage nowadays. They’re a top seller on Amazon. They’re plastered all over Instagram and Facebook, accompanied by celebrity endorsements and hashtags like #StrawsSuck and #StopSucking. Even companies like Starbucks and Marriott are catching on and are working to phase out single-use straws in an effort to augment their corporate social responsibility. They’re trendy, and for a good reason.

The United States alone goes through over 500 million plastic straws every day according to EcoCycle, a nonprofit recycling organization. The straws are used only for a few minutes but can last for potentially hundreds of years in the ocean, threatening marine life and choking our reefs and beaches. Loggerhead Marinelife Center collects pounds of these single-use straws during our beach cleanups right here at home.

Unfortunately, plastic is not biodegradable and cannot be broken down into compounds like water or carbon dioxide that could be easily reused. Instead, larger plastics will break down into smaller plastic particles called microplastics. These microplastics are potentially carcinogenic and make marine life and coral reefs more susceptible to disease.

But straws are far from our biggest problem when it comes to this marine plastic pollution. In fact, if all the estimated 8.3 billion straws scattered on our coastlines suddenly washed into the ocean, it would only account for .03 percent of the 8 million metric tons of plastics estimated to enter the ocean annually.

We’re solving a symptom of a larger plastic addiction. It’s a baby step, but it could be more. The straw bans aren’t going to save the ocean, but they could inspire us and others to jumpstart further environmentally-conscious lifestyle choices and trends. By drawing more attention to how you use a plastic straw, you are more likely to be aware of your consumption of other single-use plastics and your carbon footprint. The hope is that the straw will be a “gateway plastic.”

So, in other words, let’s keep up the enthusiasm. Let’s use this anti-straw energy to encourage ourselves and others to use reusable bags at the grocery store, to bring reusable mugs to Starbucks, and to bring reusable containers for lunch. Let’s use this same consumer pressure to advocate for sustainable fishing companies by choosing who we buy from and who we give our money to.

Let’s see what other environmentally-conscious trends we can start up.