Every­one sucks

Why we need to stop us­ing plas­tic straws

North Toronto Post - - Life - DAVID SUZUKI David Suzuki is the host of the CBC’s The Na­ture of Things and au­thor of more than 30 books on ecol­ogy (with files from Ian Han­ing­ton.)

Of all the plas­tic prod­ucts we use and take for granted, plas­tic drink­ing straws are among the most un­nec­es­sary. De­signed to be used once and dis­carded, their only real pur­pose is to keep your mouth from touch­ing a glass or ice.

Now, there’s a move­ment to get peo­ple and busi­nesses to ditch the straws. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is. In the U.S. alone, peo­ple dis­card 500 mil­lion straws ev­ery day or more than 180 bil­lion a year. That’s about 1.4 mil­lion kilo­grams of plas­tic sent to land­fills and oceans ev­ery day!

Plas­tic straws are ubiq­ui­tous. Whether you’re or­der­ing a take­out drink, cold cof­fee bev­er­age, bar cock­tail or glass of wa­ter in a restau­rant, you’ll likely get a plas­tic straw un­less you re­quest your drink with­out it. And you should. As a Tree­hug­ger ar­ti­cle notes, they don’t biode­grade, they’re dif­fi­cult to re­cy­cle, they leach toxic chem­i­cals into the ground and they can end up in oceans.

Nu­mer­ous cam­paigns have sprung up to get peo­ple to forgo drink­ing straws — or at least to use less en­vi­ron­men­tally dam­ag­ing al­ter­na­tives. Some res­tau­rants have stopped au­to­mat­i­cally putting them in drinks, like Toronto’s 7 Num­bers, and oth­ers are us­ing com­postable straws, but most still of­fer plas­tic.

In­ter­na­tional spir­its com­pany Bac­ardi has joined with the Surfrider Foun­da­tion for a “nos­traw move­ment” as part of its Good Spir­ited: Build­ing a Sus­tain­able Fu­ture pro­gram. Surfrider, which has led cam­paigns against plas­tic bags, dis­carded cig­a­rette butts and other ocean threats, has a “Straws Suck” cam­paign that en­cour­ages busi­nesses to get rid of straws. In do­ing so, bars, res­tau­rants and stores can save money as well as re­duce en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts.

Celebri­ties are on board, too, like North York’s Em­manuelle Chriqui, who ac­cepted the Stop Suck­ing chal­lenge led by the Lonely Whale Foun­da­tion. As for al­ter­na­tives, sev­eral com­pa­nies sell re­us­able and biodegrad­able straws made from me­tal, glass, bam­boo, straw or pa­per. Some come with clean­ing brushes. One com­pany is even mak­ing straws from pasta, which can be cooked later!

Ac­cord­ing to the anti-straw group the Last Plas­tic Straw, 80 to 90 per cent of marine de­bris is plas­tic. Plas­tic straws are among the top 10 lit­ter items picked up dur­ing beach cleanups.

Avoiding plas­tic straws won’t save the oceans or the world on its own, but when peo­ple start mak­ing small changes, it can lead to wider so­ci­etal changes. Or­der­ing your drinks with­out straws is a small sac­ri­fice but a big step to re­duc­ing the amount of plas­tic we pro­duce and waste.

Peo­ple dis­card 500 mil­lion straws per day in the U.S. alone

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