Any to-go beverage you’ve recently gotten likely came with the traditional plastic straw poking out of the lid. You probably quickly forgot about the straw after its usefulness ended. We’re busy people, and even the most well-intentioned environmentalists among us have been handed a plastic straw and taken it without question, maybe in a hurry to get where she's going. She didn't ask for the straw, but she got one anyway, and now it seems like a waste to not use it, so she does.
Here’s the problem: those forgotten weightless funnels of plastic linger for hundreds of years, so every straw you’ve ever grabbed or been handed for your entire life still exists somewhere. In fact, Americans use hundreds of millions of straws every single day. Even as plastic breaks down, it just becomes smaller and smaller fragments of plastic and never fully disintegrates, so these particles can wash out to sea and travel thousands of miles away, even making it into the stomachs of penguins, fish, or other wildlife.
And I know what you may be thinking, that if the straw is recycled then it’s not still lingering in a landfill or waterway! I’m sorry to report that these plastic products are not recyclable through your municipal recycling (you can check here to learn if you have a drop off for unique plastics near you). When straws do make it into recycling facilities, they can incorrectly slip into other areas for different materials like paper, potentially contaminating those recyclables, or they can get stuck in sorting machinery. They are essentially worthless once their brief use is over.
Celebrities, artists, and activists have all made the rally cry to end plastic straws. You can find these pleas from social media (#stopsucking) to the upcoming documentary “Straws”, narrated by Tim Robbins.
Here’s the solution: if you are a straw-lover, pick from one of the reusable options below and make sure to say that you won’t need a straw to your server before they’ve automatically given you one at a restaurant or café. Don’t be discouraged by any minor puzzled look you may receive – straws have become part of the norm and anytime we change a habit, there’s a bit of friction. The good news is, habits can be changed and this is one small thing we can shift that will have a huge impact.
The below reusable straw companies provide durable, dishwasher safe straws starting at $7, and many offer a lifetime guarantee (you break it, they’ll replace it).
These companies are certified members of Green America's Green Business Network and sell reusable straws:
These companies are not part of our certified network, but specialize in reusable straws:
Strawesome - (If you’re looking for a uniquely you drinking utensil, this company lets you create your very own personalized reusable straw from their array of colors and add-ons.)
Bambu Straws - (If glass isn’t your thing, these 100% certified organic bamboo straws might be the right fit.)
Once you have a reusable straw, try out some other reusable products that will help you break the plastic habit. And, they make great gifts for friends and family as well (the holiday season is just around the corner...)
-Beth Porter, Green America's Better Paper Project