Hello and welcome back to another episode of the little things! These are small changes you can make in your life to help the planet. Today we’re talking about plastic straws. In 2015 the UK Government enacted a law requiring large shops in England to charge 5p for all single use plastic bags and since then plastic bag use has plummeted (1). It has been a huge success in reducing the amount of single use plastic that is used in the UK. Now many people have turned their attention to straws.
Straws similarly to plastic bags are single use and can take up to 200 YEARS to decompose. They contribute a vast amount to the plastic that ends up in landfill and they are among the ten top things that are most likely to be found on a coastal clean up. The straws that do end up in the ocean will break down and become microplastics. Microplastics can be extremely damaging to the environment and marine life, they can even end up back on our plates. Straws have also been found stuck in the blowholes of whales and dolphins and stuck in turtles nostrils.
Straws are freely available at so many places. Wetherspoons (a pub chain) hand out 70 million straws a year (3). These straws for the most part are not recycled and several staff members have complained about the straws that they chuck away and they are not the only ones who want to see a change. There are some fantastic projects going on across the world to try and encourage people to turn down having a straw in your glass (I’ve left links to them at the bottom of this blog (4 & 5)).
“But I love using straws?!”
If this is you or if you have heard about the benefits that come with using straws (3) then never fear I have a solution for you. There are wonderful reusable straws (that I gave to my straw-loving sister for christmas). Many are made from metal, they are easy to clean, not overly expensive and will last you a life time! You can get them from amazon here but they are also available in many cooking stores. You can also get straws made from recyclable materials such as paper.
So what’s the little thing you can do to help?!
This one is super simple! Just refuse the straw! When you order a drink politely ask for one without a straw or go to bars that have already signed a pledge to not use plastic straws. You can find some amazing bars in Soho in London at link 4.
Then when you’ve made your own pledge spread the word and try and get your friends to join in. It’s a small change to your life that can have a huge impact on the world.
References and Helpful Links:
1 = http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-36917174
2 = http://blogs.worldwatch.org/plastic-straws-a-life-cycle/
3 = http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-41397345
4 = http://strawwars.org/ – Mainly for bars in soho in London that want to stop giving out straws. They have some fantastic bars as part of the project so you might want to pick some of these for your next night out.
5 = http://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/no-straw-please/ – Fantastic information on how to refuse a straw!
Featured Image: https://pixabay.com/en/straws-tube-plastic-colorful-color-8001/