According to nps.gov, “Americans use 500 million drinking straws every day. To understand just how many straws 500 million really is, this would fill over 125 school buses with straws every day. That’s 46,400 school buses every year.” Although straws are convenient to use, it can damage our environment by killing marine organisms since it’s marked as the 11th most found trash in the ocean. This means, animals under the sea will easily mistake straws as their food because single use plastics do not break down all the way, eventually turning into microplastics.
Some may say that straws don’t directly affect the population, but that is not true. As sea creatures ingest plastics, we, humans, can also eat plastics when it gets carried over to our meals. And that means, those plastics and waste will remain in our bodies.
However, Jerry Brown passed a bill restricting straws in full service restaurants. California is now the first state to ban straws unless the customer asks for one. The bill was passed on August 23rd of 2018, stating that starting in 2019, restaurants cannot provide straws unless it is being asked. Violating this rule will fine the restaurants twenty five dollars per day. This will not be necessarily applied to the take out drinking cups or cafes like Starbucks though some Starbucks are going strawless.
So instead of using plastic straws, what can possibly replace them? There are a few alternatives: paper, reusable plastic straws, or just simply no straws. There are both advantages and disadvantages to these materials. Although paper straws may seem efficient and eco-friendly, when it stays in the drink for a while, it will eventually get soggy. Not only that, producing paper straws would result in more trees being cut down which can also damage the environment.
Then, reusable plastic straws can simply solve these problems. Well, only if anyone is okay with carrying around their straw everywhere they go. It is not only inconvenient but also requires the effort to wash the straw every day.
So that narrows down the option to using no straws. Many Starbucks are participating in this campaign because by 2020, Starbucks has announced that they will be going strawless. However, the amount of plastic that they use for the new plastic lid is about the same as using straws. Not only that, but what about drivers? It will be exceptionally hard for those who drink while driving.
To this day, no one has figured out the perfect solution for replacing straws. There definitely are pros and cons when choosing a substitute. But we should at least make the effort to use less plastic.
Minju Cho, Grade 12
West Ranch High School