The disposable plastic straw is rightfully under attack, and—hopefully—facing extinction.
We’ve been tracking the issue of plastics in our oceans since last fall when ROAM founding contributors Travis Rice and Ian Walsh sailed and surfer their way from Tahiti to Hawaii (see their story in Lines to Hawaii). Along their voyage they took water samples for Adventure Scientists that would be tested for microplastics. The sad reality was that though it looked like they were exploring some of the most pristine, remote waters in the world, 73 percent of their water samples contained microplastics. Microplastics are consumed by marine life, which are then consumed by humans, and the long-term impact of this chemical exposure on our health is not yet known. So that’s depressing, but as the issue gains momentum there are beacons of hope—starting with the plastic drinking straw.
If you have been keeping up with the headlines, you may have likely familiarized yourself with the scale of plastic straw usage in the U.S. alone—it is estimated that Americans use and discard 500 million plastic straws every day.
As of late, big businesses and cities are embarking on missions to reduce the use of disposable plastic straws. Within the month of July these commitments were made:
• Starbucks announced its goal to stop using plastic straws by 2020
• Walt Disney declared that it will no longer provide plastic straws and stirrers in any of its locations beginning mid 2020
• Norwegian Cruise Lines pledged to eliminate single-use plastic straws on all 26 of its ships
• The city of San Francisco implemented a plan to ban small plastic items by July 2019.<
For businesses of this scale to drop plastic drinking straws will have a notable impact on single-use plastic waste
There is a flip side to the issue. Although plastic straws are one of the most common objects found on beaches and pose a great threat to marine life, phasing them out puts a severe burden on handicapped people. For some, plastic straws are a crucial tool for hydration and nourishment. Companies and cities are being encouraged by handicapped people to accommodate all people, while pursuing environmentalist goals.
The shared national concern for non-degradable plastic pollution is a step towards environmental progress.