This year there has been a surge in reusable straws alongside the condemning of single use plastic straws. But the truth is plastic straws only make up a very small percentage of plastic in our oceans.
So are they worth being worried about, and should we buy reusable straws? In the UK we use an estimated 8.5 billion straws a year, although no one actually knows if there is entirely accurate. Either way, we use a lot.
Plastic straws cannot be recycled, as they are too light and thin to be processed in recycling plants. So, the correct course of action is that they be put in landfill (which isn’t exactly ideal, as they take around 500 years to decompose).
So how do they end up in the ocean? According to Greenpeace plastic can be blown away and end up in rivers or oceans while in bins or while being transported to landfills. As well as plastic being littered or dropped nearby beaches and rivers. So most of the plastic that ends up in the ocean is by accident, as a result of our overuse of plastic in everyday life.
Once the straws are in the ocean they break into microplastics, which make them easily consumable by fish and other marine life. This results in a higher mortality rate of such species.
According to the organisation For a Strawless Ocean ‘It is projected that by 2050, 99% of all sea bird species will have ingested plastic. Mortality rate can be ‘up to’ 50.’ This is very clearly horrific, our plastic use contributes directly to the death of animals. So, we know that plastic is causing significant harm to sea life, but of all the plastic we use, straws make up a very small percentage. According to a recent CNN article; ‘Banning plastic straws is a little like spitting in the wind.’ The author of the article notes that straws make up an estimated 0.17% of the UK’s plastic waste, so by not using them, it doesn’t make a huge amount of difference. I agree that the it’s a minimal change, and we need much more largescale changes in order to solve these issues, but I would still encourage everyone to swap to reusable straws.
I’m all about making change, no matter how small, because it all makes a difference. Even if it’s a tiny one. Maybe by buying reusable steel straws, the plastic you are preventing from getting into the ocean as a result saves the life of one animal. This is small, but worth it in my opinion.
Not to mention, simple swaps like this cultivate a more sustainable way of living as a whole. The idea of having a product that we can reuse can help in allowing us to escape this ‘throwaway culture’ that we live in, where so much of the time the items we buy are treated as disposables. By buying reusable straws, this may encourage us to question other ways we use plastic in our lives, that perhaps we don’t need to.
The UK government are considering a ban on plastic straws. Despite some validly arguing that it won’t make a big difference to the amount of plastic in our oceans. I believe it will definitely help in cultivating a new attitude towards our use of plastic and its consequences among the general public.
I own this set of four steel straws. If you are looking for some reusable straws I recommend these. They come in plastic free packaging, have a straw cleaner and come with a pouch to carry them around in.