Lets Talk About Plastic Straws
Over the past year or two there has been a growing movement about trying to combat the amount of plastic we use on a daily basis. After Blue Planet aired in the UK, with David Attenborough showing how plastic waste and overfishing is affecting our oceans, many people were overcome with such emotion they wanted to do whatever they could to help.
But let’s be honest, plastic is hard to avoid. Even with the greatest effort to try and buy products which don’t come wrapped in plastic, at some point you are going to be caught out.
"By turning the blame onto everyday people, it makes them feel responsible for something that most of the time is out of their control."
Lately, especially on Twitter, there has been a big push back against plastic straws. Fuelled from videos of beautiful sea turtles battling against straws, ruining their diets and health. We have most likely all seen that video of a young sea turtle having a plastic straw pulled out of its nose, and the pain and suffering that has been caused.
When you look at the figures of plastic pollution it gets even more shocking. Surfers Against Sewage estimate that 5000 items of plastic are found per mile on UK beaches and everyday 8 million pieces of plastic find their way into our oceans. Plastics consistently make up 60-90% of all marine debris which is studied.
These are some shocking figures, and fuel that fight against plastic straws. A few weeks ago Seattle became the first US city to ban single-use plastic straws in the food industry. This is a great step forward, but when you really start looking into it, banning plastic straws may not be the amazing thing that it seems.
To start with plastic straws make up “about 4 percent of the plastic trash by piece, but far less by weight.” According to US scientists. This is a tiny figure in the grand scale of plastic pollution and banning plastic straws may have little noticeable effect on the amounts of plastic waste going into our oceans.
Banning plastic straws also has an effect on people who suffer from a disability. ‘There are certain conditions which lead muscles, including in the arms and the mouth, to not work at full capacity. This means even supposedly simple actions for non-disabled people, like picking up a drink and sipping it, are extremely difficult and assistance through a straw is necessary.’ And you may say, why can they not use many of the alternatives such as paper or metal. But according to many people who suffer from muscle conditions most of these are useless. Metal straws can sometimes be quite dangerous. If you suffer from involuntary movement or less control over your mouth, a metal straw doesn’t bend and so could cause quite some damage.
Now I know the majority of this article has been about the cons of banning plastic straws and I’m telling you now I honestly think its a good step forward, if only a small one. But banning plastic straws almost overlooks the main problems surrounding plastic pollution.
The majority of plastic pollution is caused by capitalism and big companies. We as consumers can control what we buy, but there is an extent, some things are essentials and come wrapped in plastic. By turning the blame onto everyday people, it makes them feel responsible for something that most of the time is out of their control. Big corporate companies should start taking responsibility for what they are producing.
Banning plastic straws is also just a bit of a cop out. It makes people feel they are helping the environment while making as little change to their own lifestyle as possible. People still eat too much meat and fish and don’t change their own buying habits because they think by not accepting a straw at a bar they have done their bit for the world.
I know that sounds harsh, and yes every little change counts. But slightly bigger changes to peoples everyday lifestyles, such as buying less meat and fish would make a lot bigger impact on plastic pollution.
Till next time,
Images from @middaywine