The road to a straw-free world

By Daniela Solis

“The single-use straw will be on this planet forever“. It is time to take action to prevent this plausible future from happening.

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Only a shockingly small amount of straws is recycled while the majority end up in the ocean, harming species along their destructive path. Straws are made from plastics, which, unless recycled take hundreds of years to decompose in the atmosphere. A few minutes of minimal convenience result in hundreds of years of harm. On the bright side, this is not inevitable and there is still time to avoid the major hidden consequences from drinking straws.

To be precise, straws take approximately 500 years to decompose. They are currently being mass produced: over 500,000,000 are used every single day in the US. What does that amount look like? It would be enough to wrap around the earth’s circumference 2.5 times a day. Following its International Coastal Cleanup, the Ocean Conservancy classified straws as one of the top ten items collected by volunteers and is actively calling for action to stop using them for good.

Pubs and restaurants automatically put straws in drinks which, let’s be honest, are not important for the act of drinking the beverage. Instead, one could simply drink from the glass with no extra effort required. Alternatively, one can turn to other options such as paper, stainless steel or glass straws which aim to cut down waste. The campaign Refuse the Straw began in the US and is encouraging pubs and restaurants to follow this change. Wetherspoon announced that it will join the movement and soon one will be able to perceive this in its 900 pubs by the end of the year. This is the first step to an ideal straw-free world.

An inspiration to this movement is one of my high-school friends who recently founded the non-profit organisation What About Waste which aims to reduce the use of these plastic straws in Brussels, my current home city. The organisation wants to offer an eco-alternative while easing the transition to a plastic straw-free planet for restaurants.

We can all start putting pressure on this issue: the simple gesture of politely refusing a plastic straw when being offered one is a small step that goes a long way for ocean health. Let’s stop straws from winding up in the ocean. By acknowledging that we are actively shaping the future of the planet we can determine what shape will this future look like. Now it is up to us to decide, do we want to watch wildlife slowly drown in a sea full of plastic or do we want a planet free of straws (and eventually free of all toxic plastics)?

Ready to join the movement,

Daniela Solis