We use 500 million straws every day

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straws

So, did you draw the short straw, and get stuck doing the holiday shopping? The unpleasant task of not know what to get someone can be overwhelming. I’ve been there. Or maybe you enjoy shopping and are looking for some new ideas. 

I really think you can never go wrong when a gift involves caring about the environment. Here are a few ideas for the environment, or to ponder this holiday season. 

Skip the straw

What do the cities of Seattle, Miami Beach, Oakland, and Monmouth Beach have in common with large companies like Starbucks, Aramark and American Airlines? They have taken the pledge to ban plastic single stream straws. 

Yes, the common straw. What seems like an innocent, everyday item has become the new awareness of just how plastic dependent our society has become and how wasteful our world and waters are due to this fact.

Straws are small and rarely get recycled because they are so lightweight. They usually get thrown in the trash, or blown in the wind. They end up on beaches or in waters. 

Did you know that 91 percent of our plastic does NOT get recycled? Plastic is not biodegradable. It may become smaller…and smaller until it ends up becoming “micro-plastic,” like much of the plastics in our oceans and waters. Those end up becoming part of the food chain.

I’ve read one source that said in the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. 

By eliminating our use of single-use plastic straws, it’s one less plastic that can harm turtles, fish, birds and marine life. 

Quite simply, most people don’t even need a straw. We have lips. But if you do need or prefer a straw, you can choose biodegradable paper ones, or use reusable straws. Join the movement #stopsucking. 

500 million per day

Milo Green, now a young teenager, started the Be Straw Free project in 2011 when he was 9 years old. According to the site www.ecocycle.org/bestrawfree/, in the USA “between all the straws handed out at restaurants, in hospitals, nursing homes, at convenience stores, schools, workplace cafeterias, on the sides of juice and milk boxes, etc., we use about 500 million straws per day.” Crazy. 

That means the average person uses 1.6 straws per day. Of course, those estimates vary, but the fact remains we can do without the use of a plastic, single stream straw. 

Now I do completely understand there are people and instances when straws are needed. Anyone who has had a stroke, has autism, MS or other life-changing physical issue needs a straw. 

Alternatives

Now is the perfect time of the year to make the change, and to give an environmentally friendly gift that has meaning and will be trendy, (plus it won’t cost a fortune). 

Here are five options and thoughts to go with them: 

1. The standard paper/cardboard straw. Yes, it’s cool again, and biodegradable. Many businesses are opting for this alternative instead of plastic, and they can even come in cool colors, logos and slogans. 

2. Compostable straws. These straws appear the closest to the single-use plastic straws, but their appearance can be fooling. Unless properly composted, they will be put into a landfill. 

Compostable is not the same thing as biodegradable, meaning compostable plastic will not break down any faster than regular plastic unless it is disposed of in a proper commercial composter. 

3. Metal. Metal straws are considered one of the most eco-friendly options for straw alternatives if they don’t scare you. 

4. Silicone straws. Think of this as a “softy” straw. These are also a good option for kids who like to chew on their straws, or you can get metal ones with silicone tips. They are BPA free of course, and like the metal ones, are dishwasher safe. 

5. Glass. I’m not sure if I’d pack one of these in my purse or travel with one- but they do exist and can be quite fancy, and you certainly won’t be throwing this straw away with each drink. 

There are many alternatives to reduce the use and waste of disposable plastic straws. 

I hope you also don’t forget my favorite “green” thing: Take a reusable shopping bag whenever you go shopping, and take your own mug to the party or get together.

Happy Holidays.

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Kelly Riley has been the Education Specialist for the Wayne Soil and Water Conservation District since 2003. She earned her B.A. Degree in Education from the University of Akron and was previously a teacher with the Tri-County ESC. Kelly can be reached at (330)-262-2836 or by e-mail at kriley@wayneoh.org.

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