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Plastic Straws: Do We Need Them?

The Two Oceans Aquarium recently produced the poster on the left.  See their blog post Straws Suck.  We totally agree with the sentiment!

Plastic straws are widely used without question.  It is standard practice to receive a straw with a cold drink at most fast food outlets and in most restaurants.  There are some scary statistics out there. Straw Wars estimates 3.5 million straws are used by McDonald’s customers in the UK alone per day. That’s huge.

There are several reasons why plastic straws are so unpopular:

  • Straws are made from plastic which is made using non-renewable fossil fuels.
  • They are used once and thrown away.
  • They cannot be recycled.
  • Straws contain BPA which is linked to many health problems including cancer and infertility.
  • Plastic breaks down very slowly so there is a good chance of straws reaching our oceans and polluting the environment.
  • Plastic straws feature in the Top Ten items found on beaches.
  • Plastic straws were first used in the 1960’s – they were considered more “hip” than paper straws. Who came up with that idea?

The stats regarding sea animals mortality rate caused by plastic listed on the Two Oceans Aquarium poster leads us to question, “Why are we still using these things?”

Are they convenient? Do they help kids to drink without spilling? Do they help avoid tooth decay?  Are they cleaner than drinking from a glass? Are drinks too cold for people to drink them straight from the glass, so they need to warm up through a a straw?

Are any of these reasons good enough to warrant the litter and damage that straws cause?

We would like to propose that restaurants and food retailers should serve drinks without straws however we understand there is customer demand for straws.  So in the instance that a customer asks for a straw, how about keeping a stash of biodegradable straws available?

Biodegradable straws are made from PLA plastic which is made from cornstarch (a renewable plant-based resource).  They compost in 60 days when added to a compost heap or biodegrade in a landfill.  In addition PLA straws do not contain any harmful chemicals.