plastic straw debate

­­With the rise of the plastic straw debate beginning back in January of 2018, California has become the first state to make regulations against the straws, making them nearly unavailable at all restaurants and other locations, unless asked for. And if companies don’t abide by this new ruling, they might even end up in jail.

As the issue of plastic waste has come to the forefront in environmental circles, other areas of the world, such as of Seattle and the United Kingdom, have also started to adopt this same mindset by creating their own set of rules against plastic usage.

But as this great turn in positive thinking toward recycling and going green has arrived, so have other concerns and setbacks. Keep on reading to get a better understanding of the situation at hand at the center of the plastic straw debate.

The Rise of the Ban on Non-Reusable Plastics

Although the plastic straw ban has been in the news for a few months now, many do not know where it originally began. To many people’s surprise, the debate was started by Milo Cress, when he was just 9 years old. Cress is now 17 years old and has gone on to create the Be Straw Free campaign, a major driving force in the current plastic straw debate.

More recently, however, the SurfRider Foundation pushed the issue to the forefront of the news in early 2018, which catapulted the entire movement to where it is today.

And once major brands, celebrities, and social media influencers, such as Starbucks and Tom Brady, caught onto the trend, the movement gained further traction.

What Major Brands and Companies Are Taking Action?

As mentioned above, Starbucks is one of the most popular brands currently making an impact. They’ve introduced creative lids to help them eliminate the need for straws in their stores, and in doing so have helped spark other companies to follow suit.

Here is a list of some other major companies and organizations that have joined the cause for change by making a pledge to eliminate some sort of non-reusable plastic, whether it’s straws, bags, or stirrers:

Non-Reusable Plastic Straws’ Effect on the Ecosystem

According to the Be Straw Free movement, every day we use around 500 million straws – that’s enough to fill more than 46,400 school buses every single year! And many researchers even state that this estimate is lower than what the actual number probably is.

Given their small size and thin material, straws are one of the hardest non-reusable plastics to be recycled. They are also a type 5 plastic, which is a kind of plastic that most domestic waste collectors don’t even accept in their curbside collections. Due to that fact, straws often get thrown in the trash, where it takes them up to 200 years to decompose.

And with many straws being disposed of improperly, they often end up in our parks and oceans causing harm or death to birds, sea turtles, dolphins, and many other animals.

The Flipside to the Debate: The Downside to Banning Plastic Straws

An argument that you don’t see as often is the downside to removing plastic straws from businesses. According to an article on Earther, author Paola Rosa-Aquino dives deep into the concern of how this trend affects the disabled.

Starbucks is in the center of this new debate, with their new lids being limiting to the disabled. A policy analyst at the Center for Disability Rights even went on to state that the alternatives, paper straws or compostable plastic straws, will still have negative effects on disabled customers.

Starbucks has replied to these concerns saying they are “still exploring a number of options for the full transition from plastic straws.”

3 Easy Ways We Can All Make a Change

If you think you or your company is willing to take the plunge into reducing your use of plastic straws, here are some simple ways you can start.

1. Invest in paper or metal straws

An easy way to move away from plastic straws in your home or office kitchen is to invest in paper or metal straws. While paper straws can be bought in select stores, its likely you will need to go to Amazon to find an affordable reusable metal straw.

2. Ask for “no straws” next time you go out to eat

Unlike fast food restaurants, where straws make eating easy on the go, at sit-down restaurants the use of straws is pretty unnecessary. So the next time you go out to eat and order that water or soda, just request no straw.

3. Join or create your own clean-up crew

Joining or starting your own clean-up crew that can help parks and beaches properly dispose of plastic waste is a great little way to help the plastic straw movement progress in the right direction. And in just a few hours, you can make a major change for the local animals that live in your area too.

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