Big news: tons of restaurants, including Starbucks, as well as some cities, are banning straws! This is a great reason to be excited, fewer straws will be entering our waterways! Many of you, I’m sure, have seen the devastating videos of sea animals with stomachs full of plastic and straws up noses. Although terrible, it turns out that straws only make up 6% of plastic pollution. Much of the plastic pollution found in the stomachs of sea animals is comprised of bottle caps and other small bits of broken down plastic. Although straws are a problem, the alternative to straws may be worse.
Starbucks is getting tons of publicity because they are ditching straws and “helping the environment”, increasing their business because consumers are elated that their daily coffee fix will soon be more environmentally friendly. However, consider the process of producing a plastic straw versus the production of the new plastic lid that Starbucks will implement. Although the new plastic will be recyclable, it uses more crude oil to produce than the smaller straws, increasing the extraction and use of fossil fuels. This creates more pollution, and has a potentially negative effect towards climate change. Many people might not recycle the lid as they should, and more plastic could end up in the oceans.
The shift from non-recyclable straws to reusable plastic is important, as it raises awareness of the issue of single-use plastic. The switch does also decrease the amount of non-reusable plastic being discarded. However, it is vital to think about the alternatives, and the possible impact on the environment.
For more information on the use of fossil fuels in the production of plastic, take a look at Surfrider Foundation’s article!