Sustainability Column: The Final Straw

Matt Froelich, Maroon-News Staff

Plastic straws probably do not come to mind when we think about major sources of waste. However, according to the National Park Service, Americans use an astonishing 500 million plastic drinking straws each day. While each individual straw might seem insignificant due to its small size, they are discarded after one use, which can lead to major issues in both land and water pollution. Like other pollutants, plastic straws often end up in oceans, and then are mistaken for food by different animals. By consuming straws, these animals can be severely injured or even killed. I have seen a video detailing the removal of a straw from a turtle’s nose, which is graphic and extremely difficult to watch, but it shows the terrible damage that straws can inflict on wildlife. If you are having doubts about the harmful effects of straws, I highly recommend googling the “turtle straw video.” It will most likely change your opinion, just as it changed mine. Additionally, the plastic emits toxins into the ocean, affecting sea creatures of all types due to the chemical makeup of the plastic. If these straws do not end up in the water, they are littered on sidewalks or contribute to the 30 million tons of plastic that ends up in American landfills each year. This can affect our own health as the plastic emits toxins as it breaks down. Overall, straws are doing more damage than good to us and our ecosystem.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution to this huge problem: we should all stop using straws. How? It can be done by skipping the straw when you get a drink to-go at the Coop. Additionally, not using a straw with your coffee or tea at the Heiber Cafe can help cut down on your personal use of straws. After all, straws are not a necessity with your drink. While it may make drinking easier, the negative aspects of straws outweigh the benefits. For example, a benefit that I have often heard is that using a straw, while consuming sugary drinks, protects your teeth from staining. According to sources such as “Ask the Dentist,” however, it seems that this is not true, as your teeth are not any more protected from the staining with the use of a straw. Next time you are at a restaurant, order your drink without a straw. Each straw that goes unused will help reduce plastic waste and protect wildlife from imbibing or encountering harmful plastics in their environment. Reducing our consumption and waste of nonessential items, like straws, is how we can continue to better our planet and protect it for generations to come.

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