[KEEN TO BE GREEN] The Last Straw

Meher McArthur

When I first moved to the US from the UK, I found it odd that so many adults here drink using straws. I thought straws were to help kids drink without making a mess. Now, 20 years on, straws seem ubiquitous, served with iced coffees, smoothies and even water in restaurants—and not just in the US (where we use 500 million a day, according to the National Parks Service), but all over the world.

What is so worrying about these slender plastic tubes is that they are too small to be recycled. They either end up in landfills or washed out to sea where they damage sea life, as in the case of the famous sea turtle with a straw stuck in his nostril (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wH878t78bw).

Because straws are arguably the least necessary form of single-use plastic in our daily lives, anti-straw campaigns are mounting worldwide to encourage people to say “no” to straws, much to the chagrin of the plastics industry who have already been battling opposition to plastic bags, polystyrene containers and plastic utensils.

Aware of the threat of straws to wildlife, many zoos and wild animal parks have already banned them, and this summer, the Long Beach and Monterey Beach aquariums joined in. Giving up straws requires almost no sacrifice—we just have to sip from the glass. If that seems hard in the heat of the summer, all we have to do is picture that poor turtle before we reach for a straw to put in our refreshing, cold drink.

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