Plastic Straws Are Not The Environmental Enemy You Think They Are

 

Plastic straws are not the environmental enemy you think they are. 

 

This summer, partially due to the “VSCO” girl trend, plastic straws have been dubbed public enemy number one for the environment. It became a trend to “save the turtles” and reduce your usage of single use plastic straws.

 

Companies like Starbucks have jumped aboard with things like strawless lids and restaurants everywhere are either not offering straws or switching to alternatives like paper or spaghetti noodles (yes spaghetti). 

 

This passion for saving the oceans comes as no shock, with everything in the news about polluted oceans and global warming, everyone is starting to feel the pressure to change their everyday lifestyle to reduce their own carbon footprints. 

 

Here’s the reality though, plastic straws make up less than one percent of all ocean pollution. Yes you read that correctly, not even a full percentage. While reducing plastic straw usage makes a miniscule difference, it is not actually the root of the problem here. Not to mention that a straw ban is extremely ableist and harms the disabled community.

 

Confused? Let’s break this down. 

 

Plastic straws have long been a staple product in disabled communities as they are cheap, sanitary and an easy way for people to eat and drink without use of hands. Plastic straws can handle warmer liquids, are accessible to all and (up until more recently) have been easy to find everywhere. Alternative straws, such as metal or paper, are not viable replacements as metal straws can potentially cut the inside of mouths and paper can not handle warmer liquids. Also neither are as easy to obtain as a plastic straw. 

 

Banning plastic straws would only be beneficial to people who don’t need to use them, while harming many more who do. 

 

As mentioned before, plastic straws are also less than one percent of all pollution in the ocean (between 0.5% and 0.3%). So what is making up the other 99.5% of all pollution? Fishing equipment and pollution from fishing companies. 

 

Ghost fishing gear, fishing equipment that has been abandoned in the ocean, contributes a whopping 10% of all pollution. It may not seem that consequential but that’s 640,000 tones. Not to mention that 70% of macroplastics floating in the ocean are a result of fishing nets. 

 

So if plastic straws aren’t the real enemy here, what can be done? 

 

The real answer lies in stricter fishing laws and regulations. Right now there is not a clear, global consensus on how to regulate what fishing companies do on and in the ocean. It all is at the discrepancy of those out on the ocean. 

 

Your enemy is not single use plastic such as straws, it is the big corporations and companies that enable mass pollution of the ocean. What can you do to stop this? 

 

Try your hardest not to support companies with non-sustainable policies, make sure to vote for politicians who want to reform the way companies are allowed to operate within the environment. 

 

Change needs to happen and soon. But do not be fooled about what the real environmental enemy is.