500 Million Every Day – Do We Need Plastic Straws?

In a video that was seen across the world, a sea turtle’s nostril bled as a plastic straw was removed.

Plastic straws are often seen as plastic waste on the beach and occur as frequently as plastic bags, plastic bottles and plastic cups (Boonstra and van Hest 2017).

Plastic straws can be blown away by the wind, fall off a table and overflow from the garbage bin. We see plastic straws at restaurants around the world as well as fast food shops, theme parks, movie theatres, coffee shops and convenience stores. 

According to the National Park Service, 500 million plastic straws are used in the US every day (National Park Service). If we were to join all the straws used in a day together, it would circle the Earth 2.5 times.

In America, the estimated quantity of plastic straws per person during a lifetime (from 5 years old to 65 years old) is 38,000 (National Park Service).

Plastic straws are small and thin, therefore they are unlikely to be recycled, and they become garbage immediately. Some straws end up in the sea and are mistakenly eaten by animals, which has become a problem. For example, the stomach of a Magellanic penguin was shown to be perforated due to the consumption of plastic straws (Brandao et al. 2011).

However, in the US plastic straw use has been decreasing gradually.

Animal Kingdom in Florida’s Walt Disney World theme park has changed to paper straws instead of plastic ones (isfoundation).

Major US aquariums have switched to paper straws instead of plastic ones in their cafes (IN OUR HANDS).

On Miami Beach in Florida, hotels and restaurants have banned the use of plastic straws for customers (Axelsson and van Sebille 2017), while in San Diego, some restaurants have already stopped serving plastic straws ( 

Since July 2018, Seattle has prohibited the use of plastic straws and dishes (the Stranger Sep 8 2017).

California is highly conscious of the environment, therefore the state has a lot of groups that specialize in the problem of plastic straws, such as The Last Plastic Straw, Strawless Ocean, and In California, the next target will be a ban on plastic straws following the ban on the free distribution of plastic bags (Fox5 2017).

Last year, California prohibited stores from handing out single-use plastic bags for free to consumers as a result of the plebiscite, thus it should come as no surprise that the same situation is happening for plastic straws.

Except for use in medical settings, when plastic straws become unavailable, most people are unlikely to have a problem with this.

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