Picture in your mind a to go cup or soda from a fast food restaurant. Chances are, you pictured three things: a plastic cup, a plastic lid, and, last but not least, a plastic straw.
While it might not seem like something as small as a plastic straw can hurt the environment, they can actually be very dangerous especially since we use them so often. In fact, plastic straws are so common that 500,000,000, or five hundred million, straws are used each day just in the United States. Those are a lot of zeros!
Unfortunately, plastic straws can’t be recycled or reused because they have a lot of harmful chemicals in them. They also aren’t biodegradable, which means that they can’t be completely broken down in the environment, and instead they break apart into small pieces that are hard to clean up. This means that they end up polluting oceans, beaches, and waterways and can be harmful to ecosystems.
Plastic straws are especially dangerous when animals like sea turtles eat them thinking they’re a tasty snack. This can cause them to get very sick. For more information, see our post about sea turtles and ocean pollution.
So what can we do? Enter paper and reusable straws. By using easily biodegradable paper straws or straws that can be used over and over again without getting thrown away each time, we can reduce the harmful effects plastic straws have had on our oceans.
Some restaurants have also stopped using plastic straws. For example, in Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States, restaurants are not allowed to give or sell drinks with plastic straws to people.
While not using plastic straws may seem like a small step, every action counts! So the next time you pick up a reusable or paper straw, think about all the sea turtles that are thanking you for your help!