An eco-friendly challenge sweeps the nation. Thousands of people across the world pledge to decrease their plastic usage by cutting out disposable straws. Plastic straws pollute our oceans and kill marine life which causes a disturbance in the food chain.
500 million. That’s how many straws people throw away each day in the United States alone. The reason why straws are so detrimental to the Earth is that their light weight allows them to easily pass through recycling centers and get disposed of as garbage. Plastic straws then end up in the ocean due to being left on beaches, blown out of trash cans, and carried through gutters and storm drains.
Marine life, specifically seabirds, and turtles ingest free-floating plastic which decreases their mortality rate by 50%. Videos of straws being painfully removed from marine animals are circling the internet and raising awareness of this problem.
Since plastic is not biodegradable it continues to break down into smaller pieces called “microplastics”. When these microplastics are consumed, energy levels decrease and the harmful chemicals from the plastics are absorbed into the bodies of the marine animals.
Compostable is Not The Answer
While many people believe that compostable straws are the solution, that might not be as correct as we had hoped. When introduced into the marine environment, a compostable straw is just as detrimental as a plastic straw and unfortunately, most are not being disposed of correctly. The only way that compostable straws do provide a solution is if, after use, they are actually thrown in the compost.
More and more people are taking the pledge to go strawless every day. Seattle, Washington was the first city to implement a ban on plastic straws and utensils starting in 2018. Celebrities like Amanda Seyfried, Lionel Richie, and Ellen Pompeo have endorsed large movements like “For A Strawless Ocean” while smaller organizations have started their own strawless challenges. India, among other countries, is also working to band single-use plastic by 2022.
One specific organization is the Sigma Kappa Sorority at Ohio University. The Sisters of Sigma Kappa Beta Upsilon at Ohio University were introduced to the straw problem by member, Caitlyn Kreuger. Kreuger says “I had been reducing the amount of plastic I use in my life and I wanted to share that with others in hopes that someone else would be inspired to rethink using plastic.”
Kreuger presented the challenge to the rest of her sorority to eliminate plastic straw usage for a week and try to avoid reusable straws as well. Members signed up to take the pledge and capture videos and pictures of their progress using the hashtag #skstrawlesschallenge. Throughout the week Caitlin received videos from the members that decided to participate in the challenge and compiled them into one video that shows everyone’s progress.
While there were a few slip-ups, most of the woman successfully completed the challenge and agreed that eliminating plastic straws from their daily routine made them more aware of how much plastic everyone uses.
For some people with MS, autism, and other physical challenges, straws are often necessary so eliminating straws all together is not an option. The solution? Reusable straws made from paper, glass, steel, bamboo, and silicone are available online and in many grocery stores.
As more and more people are becoming aware of the need to continue reducing the use of plastic straws, young entrepreneurs around the world are taking it upon themselves to find a solution. Individuals are experimenting with a wide range of biodegradable alternatives and reusable materials, creating innovative products that they hope will make a difference.