As you probably know by now the world hates plastic straws. Starbucks has announced it plans to remove all plastic straws from its locations by 2020, with other companies following suit. Why all the fuss over plastic straws? Lets take a look.
According to strawlessocean.org Americans use over 500 million plastic straws per day. And studies show a lot of these straws end up in the ocean and/or other natural environments. Like plastic bags, straws are bad because of their size and weight. They are more susceptible to being carried by the wind and according to the site, slip through screens at recycling centers. The straws, and other bits of plastic, never go away and will slowly get ground into very tiny pieces called micro plastics.
So what’s the big deal with plastic?
Plastic is cheap, easy to produce, long-lasting, and readily available which makes is a very popular material for a variety of products. While plastic does have valuable uses, there is no escaping the fact that it poses a long-term threat a multitude of species around the globe. Check out this statement from Wikipedia:
Plastic pollution can afflict land, waterways and oceans. Living organisms, particularly marine animals, can be harmed either by mechanical effects, such as entanglement in plastic objects or problems related to ingestion of plastic waste, or through exposure to chemicals within plastics that interfere with their physiology. Humans are also affected by plastic pollution, such as through disruption of various hormonal mechanisms.
The overuse of plastic, lack of recycling options, dumping in landfills, and littering can and will have drastic effects in our future.
Plastic can have harmful effects on humans. Studies show chemicals in plastic can cause issues with thyroid regulation and sexual reproduction. Ongoing studies continue to explain the detriment that plastic chemicals can have on us as humans.
What happens to plastic in the ocean?
Studies are being done to explore what happens to plastic in the ocean, and its effect on ocean animals. One study explains how “Marine plastic debris emits a keystone infochemical for olfactory foraging seabirds” – plastic may be chemically attracting sea birds, which explains the large amounts of plastic winding up inside these animals.
Larger pieces of plastic are being broken down into micro plastics that are winding up in fish and other animals. Traces of these micro plastics are now winding up in the humans that ingest these animals. In the scientific paper “Microplastics in bivalves cultured for human consumption” we find that “The annual dietary exposure of European consumers can be up to 11,000 micro plastics”.
Most of us have probably seen the images of sea turtles with plastic around their necks or the dolphins caught in plastic fishing line. While these images do evoke a certain emotion, most of us continue to use lots of plastic in our daily lives. The fact is plastic hurts more than the occasional turtle or dolphin, entire species are facing mass decline of numbers and even facing possible extinction. There are a variety of human induced factors that harm sea life however, plastic use is tangible and is something that we can fix.
So what can I do?
Reducing the use of plastics can seem like a globally daunting task, and it is! However, if each person reduces their plastic use a little, it really ads up. My family recently made the switch to reusable straws. We purchased some great titanium straws that we keep in our purse/backpack wherever we go. This has helped us reduce the amount of straws we use. We are a family of 5 and we eat out 2-3 meals a week. By switching to reusable straws we have saved over 780 straws a year!
This article is about straws, but think of all the other plastic you use on a daily basis. Switch out your plastic bags for reusable bags, put your meat in a reusable bag at the grocery, stop using bottled water, these are just a few things you can do. You have the potential to make some small changes that could keep pounds of plastic waste out of landfills and natural habitats.
Hopefully you are inspired to ditch the plastic. Join us as we strive to reduce our environmental impact! Share how you reduce, re-use, and recycle.
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