Stop Sucking, and Help Save the Planet

Last updated on July 24th, 2018 at 03:27 pm

Plastic Straws for sucking up liquidsA friend and I were out for dinner recently at a popular restaurant in downtown Toronto. To start, I ordered water with lemon, and she ordered a cola. Both of us were surprised when the waiter brought our drinks, and hers came with a plastic straw.

This started a conversation between the three of us — yes, we included our waiter — about the wasteful and polluting impact plastic straws are having on our environment. Our waiter wasn’t as aware of the issue as we were, but we agreed unanimously that a restaurant should at least ask their patrons if they want a straw.

Plastic straws are everywhere! Humans need to stop sucking…

It takes up to 200 years for one straw to decompose. Canadians use approximately 57 million plastic straws daily. Those straws are generally, (much to my surprise as well), not easy to recycle in most places in Canada, because they’re made from type 5 plastic, or polypropylene.

It takes 200 years for one plastic straw to decompose and in Canada, we use 57 million a day! #straws #plastic #plasticpollutionClick To Tweet

You might be thinking, “but type 5 plastic is recyclable”. Although it is, it just isn’t accepted by most curb-side recycling programs yet.

Plastic straws end up in landfills, or even worse, polluting our oceans. Most of us are aware that our oceans are already in serious trouble. Estimates predict that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish! Something has to be done to correct course. All of us can help, if we would just stop sucking!

Anyone who has seen the video of the turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose, will acknowledge how our human plastic straw addiction, is harming marine life. 

Progress combatting plastic straw pollution

In the United States, New York City, Hawaii, California and Seattle, among others, all have pending plastic straw bans. In Canada, Vancouver will become the first major Canadian city to ban plastic drinking straws, as it continues moving towards its “future greenest city in the world” goal, reducing its reliance on disposable single-use items. The ban takes effect in the fall of 2019.

Restaurants are jumping on board too. Under pressure by environmentalists, McDonald’s will start testing alternatives to plastic straws at select locations in the U.S. later this year. A&W Canada announced in early June that the company would be phasing out plastic straws and offering paper ones instead. Joining the shift to paper straws is Recipe Unlimited, formerly Cara Operations, which owns restaurants across Canada such as Harvey’s, Swiss Chalet and St. Hubert, as well as The Keg and Montana’s.

The move to ban plastic straws is in full swing. Vancouver will be the first Canadian city to ban plastic straws and in the U.S., Seattle, New York, California and Hawaii all have pending bans. #plastic #pollution #strawsClick To Tweet

Starbucks, in its ongoing efforts to be a corporate environmental leader — they recently committed $10M to develop a completely recyclable NextGenCup — is testing a “sippy lid“, as they just announced they will eliminate single-use plastic straws from its 28,000 company operated and licensed stores. Customers in Seattle and Vancouver will be the first to see straw-less lids this fall. Followed by phased rollouts across Canada in 2019.

A call to stop sucking on plastic straws Our individual choices make a difference

This progress is hopeful, but until more cities and local municipalities follow suit, each of us can commit to doing our individual part too. One simple thing to do is to join the One Less Straw initiative and pledge to stop using plastic straws.

There are other impactful ways to combat the plastic straw pollution problem. Choose to forego straws altogether, or bring your own with you. There are lots of alternative choices now, from stainless steel or bamboo to biodegradable paper or glass.

One of the newcomers in the straw alternative market is called Final Straw, whose ingenious collapsable reusable straw has raised almost $2 million dollars through its Kickstarter campaign, a confirmation that public awareness is raised, creating a demand for a safe alternative to plastic straws. 

As the saying goes, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. My challenge to us all is to make this the summer we commit to stop sucking! Will you join me?

A version of this article appeared on the Huffington Post on July 4th.

Beverley Golden

About Beverley Golden

Beverley Golden is a writer, storyteller, peacenik and health & vitality consultant, who loves testing unconventional ways to shift paradigms in the playing fields of health and wellness, storytelling and creativity as a path to world peace. Her passion is turning the “impossible” into the possible, using her own experiences with a lifetime of health issues, to inspire and support others to live their life to the fullest.

You're invited to a Complimentary Health Consultation, starting with the True Health Assessment that offers a customized personalized snapshot of how healthy you are in the areas of lifestyle, heredity and nutrition. Contact me to get started!

42 Comments

  • There are alternatives to plastic straws. One of our local restaurants uses a biodegradable product that is not paper and works well. I have used — or try to use — paper straws in smoothies and they don’t work. At all. I use straws for all my iced drinks as my teeth are super sensitive to cold. That being said: I stopped traffic today to pick up a plastic bag blowing across the road. Plastic bags in the ocean are often mistaken for turtles’ favorite food source (jellyfish) and can screw up their digestive systems…and kill them.

    • There are viable alternatives for all needs, Jackie and I think the new soppy cup (which I’ve tried and it doesn’t hurt sensitive teeth) might be a good one. Yes, there are many alternatives that aren’t paper, so hopefully one of them will be perfect for you.

      I also have started picking up all plastic I see on my walks, from bags to bottles, to recycle. Like you, I am very aware of the damage they are doing to our marine life and how we humans need to do the right thing to protect them. Thanks for caring!

  • This is really terrific news, Beverley. I’ve heard of this initiative and I’m happy about it. As someone who has had head and neck cancer 4 times and has limitations with my mouth, I need a straw (or something like it) to drink. However, one thing I like to do is bring my own reusable straw places to use as I can.

    I saw on the news the backlash from the disability community about this. However, I think there’s a solution for everyone that provides a win-win.

    It’s completely unacceptable to have straws impacting our animals, oceans and such and taking 200 years to recycle. It’s senseless and we need to do better! I’m glad some US cities are taking the lead.

    • It’s great that you are being proactive about your own needs for a straw, by bringing a reusable one with you, Tandy! There has been backlash from the disability community, but there are very viable alternatives for them, I’ve discovered. A biodegradable paper one, is ideal for them.

      I also agree that it is unacceptable for our human habits to have a negative impact on the environment and wildlife, so I am hoping this is the beginning of a much larger movement to curb our plastic use! There was no foresight put into the wonderful invention of plastic it seems. Time to change that.

  • San Francisco often leads the way on eco-friendly policies. So far,. they have banned the plastic bags the stores were giving us, the foam containers used for food carryout and a handful of other plastic goods. I understand that they are considering prohibiting plastic straws; however, there is a lot of push back from what I last heard.

    • San Francisco has been very proactive as a leader for the environment, Rachel! I believe they will be next to commit to banning plastic straws, especially as so many corporations are eliminating them as well. Yes, there is some pushback from people who have handicaps and need the plastic straws. I believe as long as they are made available for people who truly need them, but there are alternatives for those who don’t hey will find a solution that everyone agrees to.

  • Alene Geed says:

    I am so pleased that we are finally finding alternatives to the plastic straw. It just takes a little ingenuity and a lot of caring to make this change.

    • I am equally please, Alene! It seems like we’ve gone to the extreme when it comes to our use of plastic, but it is wonderful to know that the problems we humans have created, also have solutions thanks to ingenuity and concern.

  • Beverley thank you for this well written, beautiful and informative article.

    I’m not ready to give up straws yet. I think this sucking thing goes deep. It starts with our first connection with our mom, oxytocin and nutrients.

    I am committed to our planet though and my next stop is to go to the sites you listed where I can find a reusable straw made out of a substance other than plastic.

    Love the planet Earth!

    • Thank you very much, Candess. I’m happy to hear you enjoyed this article and found it informative. Even if you still love straws and want to use them, there are many alternatives now which support your desire to support the environment. Yes, I think a lot of people do love the idea of a straw, but it is easier now than ever to satisfy your love of straws, while also being a steward for the planet. Good luck finding your perfect alternative too!

  • Maybe I’m just the old lady of the group here, but I grew up without having to drink out of a straw, just drank like I would out of a cup or glass. I still don’t understand the need for the in the first place unless it’s because we’re so afraid of spilling the contents, or because we are always drinking something “on the run.” If we have to have the, I vote for the collapsable, reuseable straw. Or, we could all just slow down and drink mindfully!

    • I’m from the same generation as you, Barb and agree about growing up without having plastic straws in everything we drink. I am not sure of the need for them either, but it seems they’ve become a mindless habit for many people. The collapsible reusable straw is very cool and people who have them, really love them. We also could slow down and be much more mindful of how we eat and drink.

  • Rachel says:

    On my list: ordering stainless steel straws. Thanks for this reminder, I am gradually eliminating plastic from my life.

    • Fabulous, Rachel! Happy to hear you are gradually eliminating plastic from your life and that stainless steel straws are on your list of things to add.

  • Catvills says:

    Fast food chains in our area have implemented a “No plastic straw” day and that is every Friday. This is how they are educating their customers and eventually transition them to not giving plastic straws anymore.

    • I love that idea! I think it is very proactive for a chain of restaurants to educate people with a simple initiative like ‘no plastic straw’ day, once a week. It is a gentle way to helping people realize the need to change their habits. Thanks for sharing that! It’s hopeful.

  • Sue Kearney says:

    What a great thing, spreading the word about this tragedy. Thank you.

  • Tarah says:

    Thank you for sharing this!!! We often forget how the impact of something that may seem insignificant actually causes harm. I have tried those sippy cups!

    • Thanks Tarah! Happy to hear you have had the chance to try the new sippy lids! And yes, it is easy to forgo a plastic straw and do something good for the planet.

  • I wish more people would focus and taking care of our planet. They don’t realize that all these precious resources won’t be around forever.

    • Exactly Maria! Human beings have become somewhat complacent about the harm we are causing the planet. My hope is that once awareness is raised, it becomes easier to choose alternatives that won’t hurt the environment.

  • Tami says:

    You have made me feel terrible. My son uses plastic straws on a daily basis. I need to order him a few reusable straws.

    • No need to feel bad, Tami, but it sounds like being aware of the issue, is prompting you to consider ordering reusable straws. The great news is there are so many options now!

  • Peter says:

    I am all for getting rid of plastic straws. The exceptions being the sick, disabled and elderly

    • Great point, Peter. Plastic straws are a necessity for some people and for them, it is easy to make them available.

  • Brandy says:

    This is so different to me. I get that saving environment is important for sure, I never thought about the straws. I think there are tons of other things we can do for sure.

    • Everything adds up, Brandy, so choosing to reduce any kind of single-use disposable plastic, is a step in favour of the environment. Plastic straws are a good place too start for those who use them, as there are so many great alternative.

  • Every little bit helps, we don’t do straws in this house, it’s actually not good for your stomach but I also don’t believe in plastic waste! Great post!

    • Thanks for adding the point about straws in general being bad for our digestion, Melanie. I appreciate that you are not only avoiding straws, but are doing your part to reduce plastic waste as well! Thank you!

  • Annemarie LeBlanc says:

    I think we should provide our own straws for our drinks. I have seen some campaigns pushing for personal, reusable metal straws. Plastic disposable items have done too much damage to the environment.

    • I completely agree with you Annemarie! Disposable plastic items are hurting the environment and as you said, there are so many alternatives now to plastic straws, that it makes it easy to bring our own!

  • Joline says:

    Poor turtle! I agree, every little bit helps. We do our share but I think we can do so much more. I’m guilty of using plastic straws (bubble teas!) so that has got to go.

    • I think all of us can do more when it comes to changing out plastic consumption, Joline. I believe that the more we know, the easier it is to make changes. Yes, the turtle and other marine life are truly suffering because of our plastic addiction.

  • Neely Moldovan says:

    Some starbucks actually already have the cup. I saw one today. They are really cool!

    • Yes, the Starbucks I go to has a new sippy lid, but I am not sure if the cup is available yet. I appreciate that they are doing their best to be environmental leaders.

  • maria long says:

    It is sad how much we are doing to destroy our environment. People rely on convenience while hurting wildlife that has no control.

    • I very much agree with you, Maria. We humans are damaging our environment by our habits and in doing that we are destroying the natural eco systems we all rely on. The wildlife are the innocent victims.

  • Catherine Sargent says:

    I am glad to see that more places are doing away with plastic straws. I have a couple stainless steel straws that we use at home and I also keep one in my car.

    • I’m also happy to see more and more places ding away with plastic straws, Catherine. People who have stainless steel straws love them and say that it really enhance the way the drink goes down. Happy to hear you are using them both at home and also taking one with you!

  • I agree that making a difference for our environment is important. I think all companies just asking if a straw was needed would be an appropriate place to start, as there are people with disabilities that need plastic straws.

    • There are so many small things restaurants, corporations and we humans can do to be part of the effort to curb the plastic that is damaging our environment. I agree with you that the people who need plastic straws should still have access to them, but asking for it makes a lot of sense.

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