Plastic Straws

Plastic straws cause harm to marine environments. 

“Here’s your drink,” the waitress says, placing your cup on the table. In addition to the ice clinking in the glass, you’ll hear the gentle pat of a straw being placed upon the table, a decade’s long practice in the restaurant industry.

Whether it be at restaurants, bars, sporting events or any other drink-dispensing place, straws have become the standard complement to any drink. And yet the long tubular contraption adorning drinks dirty up the ocean with unnecessary plastic, harming sea life and marine environments.

To combat this needless pollution and injury to the environment, students should refrain from using straws as much as possible.

There’s 8 million tons of plastic in the ocean. Half these items are single-use only, so those chip bags, plastic bottles and plastic bags find their way in the water, where they won’t fully decompose for approximately 450 years. However, decomposition is still beginning, and when plastic breaks down it releases the known endocrine disruptor BPA. It affects the reproductive systems of mollusks, crustaceans and amphibians, and these effects permeate along the ocean’s food web.

But how much of this pollution is straws? Considering the fact that 500 million straws are used daily and they are often an afterthought for most people, straws very rarely make it to the landfill. They slip away unnoticed and line the beaches, decaying BPA along the sand.

"If you have the opportunity to make this choice and not to use a plastic straw, this can help keep this item off our beaches and raise awareness on plastic in the ocean," said Dr. Jenna Jambeck, an associate professor in UGA's College of Engineering in an interview with National Geographic. 

Local businesses are already combatting needless straw pollution. Places like Two Story Coffee on South Lumpkin adjust their practices to make change.

“We started offering for-here cold drink in glass cups, which we haven’t done in the past, so we’re super conscious here and try to do every little bit that we can," said Shelby Frank, a barista at Two Story Coffee. 

You can help fight straw pollution too. Experts foretell more plastic than fish in our ocean by 2050, so one less straw used means one less morsel of pollution, reducing clean-up effort in the ocean and allocating more energy to restoring what has already been damaged.

Straws suck, and it’s even worse that they are so prevalent in our everyday consumption. But despite the convenience when drinking a drink, the straw’s detriment to the environment is too large to ignore. When it comes to the ever mounting injury and ill-effect on our oceans and marine ecosystems, it’s up to us to decide what will be the last straw.

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(2) comments

Man with the Axe

I'm a bit skeptical of the 500 million straws per day datum. Assuming that half of people eat all three meals at home on a typical day without straws, that leaves 160 million people who might use a straw. They would have to use an average of more than 3 straws per day every day to use 500 million. I just don't see that as a reasonable estimation. Most people who use straws probably use none at breakfast, no matter where they eat it, and maybe one at lunch, and maybe one at dinner but only some of the time. Then, of course, they are home on the weekends when they don't use straws at all.


I am with you that it is hard to fathom 500 million straws per day. That is the number on almost all of the straw research related websites out there...when you look to see where the data is coming from, all of the sites point back to "data given by straw manufacturers". But take that number away and just start doing some simple math. McDonald's sells 68 million meals per day, the vast majority come with straws...but even if they don't, some people go to McDonald's just for a let's call it even. Then there are all of the other fast food chains across the world. McDonalds owns 19% of world fast food market share...while not scientific, if 68 million is 19%, it follows that 425,000,000 represents 100% of fast food meals served worldwide per day. Most probably come with straws...but that's a pretty darn close number to 500 million straws per day, so that's likely where the figure comes from when and you add in all the straws from convenience stores and restaurants, I bet you get even closer.

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