September 11, 2018
Although plastic straws only account for a minimal percentage of ocean pollution, the popularity of the “straw ban” has immensely risen due to it being an easy alternative to reducing waste. We all know that straw bans can’t realistically save the ocean, but it can begin a cycle of reducing the amount of plastic waste and pollution that ends up in the ocean.
Straws are one of the most common items gathered at beach clean ups. The straws that remain on our beaches and in the ocean over time break down into small particles which can be mistaken as food for marine life. The law was made to reduce the amount of straws that end up on our beaches and in the ocean. It is estimated that 71% of seabirds and 30% of sea turtles have consumed plastic.
The main issue with these small pieces of plastic is that most straws are too lightweight to go through a recycling sorting machine. They mix with other materials and end up getting disposed as garbage. We are one of the biggest contributors to the plastic in the ocean.
Beginning this trend, Starbucks chains located in Seattle took the first steps towards the straw ban. Starbucks decided that by 2020, all of their 28,000 worldwide locations will offer specially designed lid and biodegradable straws. The new lids do use more plastic; however, they are recyclable unlike the old straws. After Starbucks decided to ban the straws, America took notice. Shortly after starting the trend, Starbucks was joined by Marriott International as well as American Airlines. Acting as an example to several other companies, Dunkin’ Donuts followed Starbucks’ goal of switching to biodegradable straws by 2020.
Now in California, people who fail to obey this new ban could be fined up to $1,000 and could even be imprisoned for up to 6 months. Though this prison sentence will only be implemented for businesses who continuously disobey the law. On the other hand, Seattle was the first major city in the US to ban plastic straws and their violators have only been fined a maximum of $250.
We can all easily make a difference by asking for no straws when ordering a drink. However, many restaurant chains have started to no longer offer straws to customers. If businesses write “straws only upon request” on menus, it is estimated that nearly 50-90% of their customers will not ask for a straw, demonstrating the newfound awareness of this issue. Alternatives have been created, such as bamboo straws and reusable metal straws. Although we all recognize the harms of other materials such as plastic bags and soda can rings, ending the use of plastic straws is one of the easiest ways everyone can take part in saving our oceans.