Okay, I will be the first to admit that I freaking love plastic straws. Maybe love is too strong a word, but I use them daily and they make me ridiculously happy. Every morning, after I drop my kiddos off at school, I sit down in the beautiful quiet of my house with my bowl of oatmeal, a nice tall iced coffee, and get to work. And that little straw that sits there in my coffee … it beckons me, entices me, allows me to leisurely slurp that coffee and enjoy my few sacred hours of kid-free silence.
And so, when I saw recently that the Internet was buzzing about the fact that we all needed to stop using plastic straws ASAP, I felt a good amount of resistance. I love Mother Earth. I recycle, I try to save water, I bring my re-usable bags to the grocery store. I even cloth diapered one of my kids for 15 months (this is not for the faint of heart, I tell you). But the idea of ceasing to use my straws was hard for me to accept. Not my beloved straws!
But once I got to researching, it became quite clear that my addiction to plastic straws is really my flipping problem, and one that I can easily get rid of for the sake of our planet’s future.
OK, so here’s the deal with plastic straws. According to CNN, every day Americans trash about 500 million plastic straws, which is enough to circle the earth two times. Yikes! Worldwide, straws are the sixth most common type of litter, according to Litterati.org, an app that tracks and maps trash. And in each of our lifetimes, we use approximately 35,000 straws.
Holy crap, that’s a lot of freaking straws.
Overconsumption of all kinds of plastic—not just straws—is a huge problem, and is causing all kinds of environmental issues for the planet. But straws specifically are made of fossil fuels and are almost never recycled because of how small they are, as CNN explains. This means that most of them are dumped into our oceans, ruining whole ecosystems and harming wildlife.
This issue began to draw widespread attention when a 2015 video of rescuers removing a straw from the nostril of a sea turtle went viral, highlighting the horrific dangers of plastic straws to sea animals. (Warning: the video is pretty graphic, bloody, and quite upsetting).
Soon after, movements calling for the banning of plastic straws began popping up everywhere. Several major cities in the United States have already taken steps to limit the use of plastic straws. The latest city to do so is Malibu, California. But Seattle and Fort Myers, Florida have done it too, as have the California cities of Davis and San Luis Obispo.
And although the banning of plastic straws isn’t going to solve the all-encompassing nature of the plastics problem, advocates say it’s a step in the right direction, and will at least raise awareness about how much plastic we all consume on a daily basis—and how this seriously needs to change.
“I think a lot of people feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the plastic problem,” Diana Lofflin, founder StrawFree.org, tells The New York Times. “Giving up plastic straws is a small step, and an easy thing for people to get started on. From there, we can move on to larger projects.”
But it’s not just cities that have jumped on the straw-free bandwagon—major businesses are taking the lead as well. In fact, none other than Mickey D’s themselves have decided to pitch in. McDonalds recently announced that all of their 1,300 U.K. locations will be switching to paper straws starting in May. Additionally, all of the straws will be kept behind the counter, so customers will have to make a conscious effort to use a straw going forward.
“The only thing left for us to move forward on are the lids that go on to our cups,” Paul Pomroy, McDonald’s U.K. CEO tells Sky News. “Straws are one of those things that people feel passionately about, and rightly so, and we’re moving those straws behind the front counter.”
Welp, if McDonald’s is banning these things, you know they must be pretty dang bad, amiright?
So, what do we do about the fact that plastic straws are basically God’s gift to humankind, and we (errrr, me) basically can’t live without them? First, it’s probably not that hard to ditch straws altogether. Sipping directly from the lip of a cup is a perfectly fine option, people.
But if you’re like me and really need your straws, there are definitely plenty of environmentally-friendly choices out there. Strawfree.org recommends switching to bamboo straws, which actually look really cool. They even claim that these straws aren’t as hard to clean as it seems they might be. Definitely worth looking into. Reusable stainless steel straws are also a great option, and they’re typically dishwasher safe.
I personally don’t have the time to deal with cleaning my freaking straws, so I’m going to go out and invest in some paper straws. A quick Amazon search finds that they are not much more expensive than plastic straws, they’re totally biodegradable, and—gasp—they are totally adorable.
Now, excuse me while I blow my entire paycheck on these cute AF paper straws. I think I’m in love.