Plastic straws – Will they be banned?
(Either way, stop using them! Copper straws are a great substitute)
The media has been awash in straw criticism these days, and for good reason. Plastic straws are a problem, and a great example of two environmental problems–the massive overuse of plastic, and our disposable consumer culture.
Scientific journals have come out to say that straws and other plastic debris are degrading into microplastics, causing many coastal areas to be severely contaminated. These microplastics are ingested by fish, which are then ingested by humans. This is causing scientists to have concerns for human health, as well as marine health. In one 2011 study, researchers found that straws (a form of low-density polyethylene) made up a substantial portion of marine waste, alongside plastic bags, six-pack rings, bottles, and netting.
There was a viral video a few years ago about a marine turtle getting a straw wedged in its nose, and many subsequent research articles showed this wasn’t an isolated incident–when plastics don’t degrade, they are even more of a threat to wildlife. Who hasn’t seen a picture of a fish or turtle stuck in a plastic 6-pack ring? Or an article about a whale who had ingested literal tons of plastic? There are beaches all over the world covered in plastic debris that has washed up from the ocean, and it’s time we take a stand for the world we live in, and look at our own daily lives to see how we can make a change.
We’ve been hearing about the negative impact that plastic goods have on the environment for years, and surprisingly little change has taken place. Many regions in North America are working to reduce the use of plastic bags and encourage the purchase of wooden toys for children. But aren’t straws an easier plastic luxury for us as a society to give up? Do you really need to use a straw when drinking that cocktail, or with that soda?
Some businesses, like A&W Canada and Burger King UK, will soon be offering paper or other biodegradable options. Other companies, like Starbucks, are reducing the use of straws by offering lids designed to be used without them. Regardless of the tactic, any improvement that a large company takes is positive, as it brings awareness to this critical issue. Businesses making the decision to embrace environmentally kind practice will encourage individuals to make the same decisions in day to day life. While it would be most effective if the government banned the use of harmful materials from all businesses, it is a huge undertaking to ban the use of a day-to-day material like straws and requires dedicated voices in the community to explain the problems. Make sure you speak up and tell your local government that this is an issue that matters to you.
Some cities, like Vancouver, are implementing a complete ban on plastic straws (and other materials like styrofoam containers) in the next year. Seattle became the first major US city to ban plastic straws in bars and restaurants. This ban will only affect businesses and not home use, but that will target the majority of the use. New York is also considering a similar ban, which will fine businesses for serving beverages with any plastic based straw, only allowing biodegradable materials. Your hometown could be next! (we mean that in a good way).
While plastic is a massive issue, the disposability of straws is another concern. Given out with every fast food beverage, cocktail, and juice box, consumers are basically instructed to throw them away after a single use! Even if we switch to a biodegradable alternative, like paper or corn (yes, corn straws are a thing!) consider the packaging and shipping required to bring boxes to each business, and the energy required to manufacture them in the first place. They are an improvement, but a bigger improvement would be to forego them all together, or at least reduce your use of them. When you do have a beverage that’s better with a straw (like this Moscow mule ice cream float) please consider a reusable option, like copper or another metal.
Going forward, instead of the usual single-use plastic version smuggled home from a local McDonald’s, consider purchasing a quality reusable straw (or several). For a limited time, Artisan’s Anvil will be giving away sets of 2 copper straws, which you can use for a wide variety of beverages, at home, or on the go! If you know you’ll be hitting up a drive-through that day, just pop a straw in your bag, and bring it home to wash later. Or, if drive-throughs and restaurants are a daily occurrence, consider storing one in your car, at work, in your bag, or in your briefcase.
Whether you win reusable straws through our website or stop using straws altogether, consider the environment, and say no to disposable plastic straws.