Plastic straws are found to be the worst enemy of the environment. The rally against the plastic straws is picking up very fast growing over the environment circles and extending to other spheres. Commenting on the threat in front of us, Eric Goldstein, a senior attorney at NRDC says, “Plastic straws represent our throwaway culture, which developed over the past 50 years or so. They’re a first-class litter and pollution problem.” It is a crucial time that we explore the alternatives to plastic straw and study if those alternatives can help as a viable solution.
What focuses on plastic straws?
Among the different kinds of plastic trash we can think of, a good number of reasons justify targeting plastic straws especially. In the first place, plastic straws are very easy to do away with. We can say it is like low hanging fruit in the massive fight against the disposable plastic goods. Secondly, unlike the case with several other single-use items, plastic straws cannot be recycled that easily. The possibility to recycle an item is all about the extent of demand that exists while trying to resell it. Studies show us that over hundreds of millions of straws are thrown out every day in the United States alone.
Best practices to manage the menace of plastic straw waste
Before thinking of the alternatives to plastic straw, Goldstein suggests a few useful methods to handle the environmental threat created by plastic straws. The best way to fight against plastic waste is first to start using less. In the first place, we can think of drinking the beverages directly by sipping from the glass instead of using the straw. You can also stock a few bamboo o metal straws that can be recycled or composted as appropriate. If you are particular about using straws for sipping drinks, better carry bamboo or metal straws with you and keep some in your kitchen, bag, car, and workplace.
Measures by the states
Some states like New York and California are taking steps to prevent the habitual use of customers to use straws. The bill in California will need the customers to ask for a straw instead of being given one by default. On the other hand, New York is thinking about a complete ban on them.
Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that any legislative measures like this must also include caveats so that the disabled persons can have access to the straws if they need it badly. Goldstein adds, “No one wants to take away straws from those who need them. But we can work together to meet the goal of dramatically reducing the amount of single-use plastic while still providing straws to folks who are disabled.”
Initiatives to curb plastic straws
The controversy regarding plastic straws is not only sustentative, but it is also symbolic. As we take steps to control the use of single-use straws, we are moving towards tangibly keeping our planet. Once such initiatives gain momentum, it can go in to demonstrate that efforts to bring down waste are not going waste. The favorable climate around us to voice our concerns regarding the curbing of plastic straws is encouraging and can see a dramatic shift in marketplaces, enter into essential dialogues, trigger innovation and take comprehensive measures to protect our planet earth.
Can switching to paper straws help to save the planet?
The main point supporting the use of paper straw in place of plastic ones is that paper straws are bio-degradable in the environment. This will mean that the natural processes happening in the environment can break it without letting it float on the oceans or consumed by the sea animals. However, the problem with plastic straws is not that simple and straight forward.
Unlike paper straws, paper straws can decompose naturally or broken down into tiny pieces. The chances are not remote that the sea animals can still consume these small bits of paper. Chung Shan-shan, the director of science in environmental and public health management at Baptist University, says, “Even though the paper is biodegradable, it won’t break down even after a very long time if it contains a lot of pulp. You can find newspapers in landfills where, even after 10, 20 years, the words on them may still be readable.”
Use of paper straw can help alleviate the situation to an extent and turn our planet greener. However, in most cities, the city’s litter ends up in landfills and not in sea or green spaces. Hence we might say paper straws will again share the same fate as the plastic ones. This will lead the discussion towards implementing better solutions and refining our outlooks towards bringing in greener alternatives.
Escaping the single-use culture
Talking about the case of Hong Kong, for example, Chung says, “Unless you are getting rid of single-use items in natural places filled with wildlife, swapping plastic straws for paper straws will make no difference in a city like Hong Kong.”
Chung urges for a culture that will stop relying on single-use items altogether and shift to better alternatives. In these lines, we can think of products like metal straws and bamboo straws that can be used again and again.
Going further, Chung says, “There are already so many existing tools that can perform the duty of straws. Why can’t we just drink from our cups?” According to Chung, chopsticks or spoons can also help suck in the tapioca balls floating in bubble tea.
Chung points out to moving back to a better lifestyle of using items again and again by stating, “Even if we create products using the most environmentally-friendly materials, as long as they are single-use products, the Earth won’t last.”