Plastic Straws Suck: Do You?

Every single day 10 million plastic straws are used for a few minutes and then thrown away. And that’s just in Australia. For convenience in a brief moment of time, a plastic straw becomes a problem that lasts for many generations.

The statistics for America are even more shocking – it’s around 500 million plastic straws every day.

Over a year, that’s 3.5 billion plastic straws just in Australia alone, which are not recyclable. In America, it’s 182 billion plastic straws a day.

Plastic straws are too small and too lightweight to be picked up and processed on the conveyer belt in a recycling centre.

Plastic Straw Usage in Australia

In Australia, the main sources of plastic straws come from our 22000 restaurants, 9900 cafes, 7000 pubs, 900 McDonalds who serve 1.7 million people per day, RSL clubs, food courts, movies, airlines, supermarkets, schools and hotels.

Photo of two McDonalds cups with plastic straws.
Plastic straws at McDonalds

Plastic Straw Pollution on Marine Life

A recent study estimated that 8.3 million plastic straws pollute our beaches and that’s bad news for marine animals.

Plastic straws could end up lodged in the throats of sea animals, stuck up a turtle’s nose, or eaten by birds. If any animal eats plastic it sits in their stomach causing plastic pollution starvation because the animal always feels ‘full’. As there is no room in the stomach for nutrition, the animal will eventually die.

Even if you don’t live near the ocean, plastic straws not buried in landfill, end up in waterways that lead to the ocean.

WARNING – Disturbing content

Plastic Straw Beginnings

Plastic straws were first mass produced in the 1960s. As society demanded increasing amounts of single use convenience items, more and more plastic straws were produced. Then came the jumbo straws and the crazy straws of the 1980s. Suddenly there were so many more new and exciting ways to consume your drink.

Photo of colourful plastic crazy straws.
Crazy straws are still sold today

Unfortunately, plastic straws have become a common part of modern life. For anyone born after the 1960s, plastic straws have always been there.

Without people making conscious shopping decisions, not much will change. However, if we all say no to plastic straws, manufacturers will stop producing them. If there is no demand for a product, there is no money to be made in selling it.

Children as Change Makers

Despite their young age and inexperience, children can be powerful change makers. For example, Molly Steer, a 10 year old from Cairns, Australia, was horrified after watching the film ‘A Plastic Ocean’. The film highlighted the devastating impact plastic has on marine life and the environment. Molly felt she had to do something about the problem.

Movie preview of A Plastic Ocean

With her new awareness, Molly approached her school principal and asked if the school canteen could stop using plastic straws. The principal agreed. This spurred Molly onto greater goals.

Other schools in her local area heard about what was happening and joined in. This has since spread Australia wide and even overseas. You can find out more information on Molly’s website Straw No More.

Molly started her campaign in 2017 and is still fully committed to helping the environment. Her vision is for all schools in Australia to stop supplying plastic straws.

“I just want animals to stop dying and the world to stop dying.”

Molly Steer

Her next mission is to encourage councils throughout Australia to stop using plastic straws in their daily events and operations.

Another example of children making a difference are Carter and Olivia Ries. When they were aged 8.5 and 7 years old, they created the OneLessStraw Pledge Campaign. They encourage individuals, businesses and schools to take a pledge not to use plastic straws for 30 days.

Poster: One less straw pledge - a campaign brought to you by One More Generation dot org

The Pledge:

For the next 30 days, I pledge not to use or accept plastic straws.

I pledge to pay the amount indicated below for each plastic straw I use or accept during the next 30 days:

.25c .50c  $1 $5  Other: ______________________

As part of their campaign, all money raised goes back to environmental education programs in schools.

What You Can Do

One alternative is to use a paper straw, however, they are still a single use waste item. Whilst they do eventually biodegrade, it could take longer than 180 days. They also have a higher monetary cost to the consumer.

Photo of a container of paper straws.
Single use paper straws

Another option is reusable stainless steel straws. They are cheap to buy, come with a cleaning brush, are dishwasher safe and can be recycled (or given away) when no longer needed.

Stainless steel straws come in a variety of widths, lengths and colours. Other easy to purchase alternatives to plastic straws are silicone straws, bamboo straws and glass straws. They are available to purchase online from places such as Biome.

Photo of a variety of stainless steel straws.
Example of the variety of stainless steel straws available

As human’s are such a creative species, in response to the plastic straw pollution problem, we have also come up with straws made from titanium, sterling silver and ice. Then there’s straws made from the tubular stem of wheat plants, edible straws made from a seaweed base, and extra long pasta tubes used as straws.

Or we could simply drink from a cup without a straw.

Please consider the environment next time you purchase a drink. By making a small sustainable change in refusing single use plastic straws, you can make a big difference. Encourage others to make conscientious decisions as well – be a Change Maker.

Interested in reducing plastics in other areas of your life? Have a look at my blog post titled Disposable Razors: A Waste of Money.

What has been your experience with using straws not made from plastic?

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