I’m sure, by now, you have seen a meme or an article on the internet about straws and their devastating effect on our environment. Single Use Plastic, specifically straws have been getting a lot of media attention.

Today we will discuss single-use plastic and why it such a bad thing for us and our environment.
Single-Use Plastic, or disposable plastic, is used once and then thrown away or recycled and these items can include things such as plastic bags, plastic cutlery, straws, water bottles and food packaging.

Only 10% of all plastic that is produced, is recycled and we produced roughly 300 million tons worldwide every year. Petroleum Based Products, which is non-biodegradable, takes anywhere from 90 to 1000 years to degrade and they normally end up buried in landfills or the plastic gets broken down into microscopic pieces en route to the ocean. During this process, toxic chemicals are released which eventually makes its way into our food and water supply, not to mention the direct impact this has on plants, animals and marine life. We are rapidly poisoning ourselves and our home planet with plastic.

We got used to having these ‘convenient’ plastic products in our lives, but we have many more options available to us these days. We can use canvas or paper shopping bags, paper or reusable coffee cups, glass bottles and paper or bamboo straws, but we still insist on using plastic.

Let us just look at the one item that started this trend across the world – the plastic straw.
The world uses 500 million drinking straws per day. Some are recycled, but most of them are discarded and ends up in our oceans. One million marine birds die every year from ingesting straws. In one example, when the stomach contents of a deceased sea turtle were examined, scientist found over 100 plastic straws in its digestive system, not to mention plastic bags, cigarette butts and lids.

The recent trend to ban straws is gaining momentum with many companies adopting this policy across the world. In South Africa, Ocean Basket has banned the use of plastic straws in all of their restaurants, and you will not find a single plastic straw at O.R. Tambo Airport. All food kiosks inside the Two Oceans Aquarium are petroleum-based plastic free. In the US, Starbucks has announced that they have developed a new lid that does not require a straw for their products.

In Seattle, USA, they have completely banned straws and plastic packaging outright and in 2017 Kenya banned the use of plastic bags completely.
Yes, straws are necessary for some people, especially for those with disabilities, but the straw does not need to be made of plastic.

The History of the Straw

Straws were originally made for beer, back in the day, when the filtering process was not as sophisticated, to avoid lumps. These were, however, completely reusable.

Interestingly enough, the first recorded straw in history is 4600 years old and was used by Queen Puadi of Ur – this one was also re-usable. In 1888, Marvin Stone invented the disposable straw, but incidentally, it was made of paper. It wasn’t until the mid-1970’s that we started producing and using plastic disposable straws. Why? Because plastic was cheap and we didn’t know what impact it would have on the environment, or rather, we did not care. We are now suffering the consequences of our short-sightedness.

To get involved in the above mentioned environmental campaigns, take a look at the #StrawsSuck Campaign.