It’s there before you know it—in your cup, staring at you: the ubiquitous plastic straw. The bendy piece of plastic that has been accompanying beverages for decades.
A disposable plastic straw is used on average for a whopping 20 minutes. It’s longer than the four-second lifespan of the plastic stirrer you may use to swizzle your coffee or tea, but 20 minutes is still just a tiny fraction of the several hundred years it could spend in a landfill. One straw may seem insignificant, but consider this: someone who uses one straw a day for the next decade will toss 3,650 pieces of plastic into the landfill—and there’s a chance that plastic may get lost along the way and end up in the ocean.
Over the past quarter century, straws have routinely been one of the top ten items found on beaches around the world during the International Coastal Cleanup. How many? Ocean Conservancy volunteers have picked up so many straws from beaches and waterways that when laid end-to-end; they would span a distance equal to California’s 840 miles of coastline. And last year alone, enough disposable plastic straws were found to pop one into your beverage every day for the next 1,250 years. Don’t think it’s a problem? Some communities have actually banned straws entirely to reduce trash on the nearby beaches.
Still, good news for straw lovers: There are plenty of options for trash-free sipping. We all have a drawer of reusable silverware at home, so why not toss in a few reusable straws. Glass, stainless steel, bamboo and BPA-free plastic are all trash free options and the best part is they often come in packs of four, which means you can slurp trash-free at home, at the office and on the go. Whether you bring your own straw or decide to go straw-free the next time you dine out, remember to ask your server to hold the straw. If enough people ask for drinks without straws, servers could decide to ask customers first before automatically handing them out.
Although most disposable straws can be recycled (#2 and #5 plastics), most straws do not get recycled. For that reason, request a straw-less beverage or get a reusable straw so that we keep disposable straws out of the landfill and keep our beaches trash-free.