Posted on September 05 2019
Americans use 500 million plastic straws—or 1.6 per person on average—every day. Based on this, a typical American will use more than 38,000 plastic straws over the course of a lifetime. While drinking through a single-use plastic straw seems innocent enough, don’t fool yourself: many of these straws find their way into our oceans, polluting underwater ecosystems and harming marine wildlife.
With the green movement growing, and attention turning towards more sustainable practices, consumers are becoming more focused on biodegradable or recyclable straw alternatives, including paper drinking straws.
The straw-less movement has been growing over the past two years and several cities are already banning single-use plastic straws. A new law in California makes it illegal for restaurant servers to give customers plastic straws unless asked. Public pressure has also driven businesses like Starbucks and SeaWorld to announce plans to eliminate plastic straws.
So why don’t manufacturers just start producing more disposable paper straws? The problem is in the production. Paper drinking straws are about five times more expensive to produce than plastic straws. Current machinery can produce just 150-200 straws per minute, compared to machines that can produce 2,000 plus plastic straws per minute. Paper straws must be made with several layers of paper, to give them strength so they don’t disintegrate in a drink (yet, they need to be biodegradable).
Before paper straws can grow into an affordable commodity, the industry, including machinery, will have to evolve. Meeting that challenge will take some time, but it will happen. Because right now, 18 billion pounds of plastic (including plastic straws) winds up in the ocean each year. That’s simply not sustainable.
Using disposable paper straws or opting out from using a straw at a restaurant or drive through are much better options than the conventional plastic straws that will end up as pollution in our oceans or in marine animals’ bodies. It may require a bit of extra work but using reusable straws or alternatives can make a big difference for wildlife and for ourselves.
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