Straws and the Environment

Straws have been in the news a lot lately! And we LOVE that because it means that more and more people are becoming aware of the problem surrounding their use. In this post, we will cover some topics concerning straws and ways you can cut down on your usage of them.

*Before we continue with this post, we want to note that while we support establishments reducing their use of plastic straws, a great number of our population still needs access to them every day for medical purposes. It would be negligent to completely take all straws away or only offer certain alternatives when sometimes a plastic straw is really what is needed. What we hope to see is a replacement for plastic straws for those who don't need them and a more sustainable option for those who do.

We hope you enjoy this post and that it has an impact on the way you view single-use plastic!

So, where do straws come from?

The first known straws were made by the Sumerians and used for drinking beer. The oldest straw in existence was found in the tomb of a Sumerian dating all the way back to 3,000 B.C., it was a gold tube inlaid with a precious blue stone. Now that is a cool straw!

Then in the 1880s, the ryegrass straw came into fashion because it was cheap to make and soft. But, it tended to turn to mush once in liquid. To address these issues, a man named Marvin C. Stone patented the modern drinking straw, made of paper. 

Despite its humble beginnings, and the inventor's (probable) good intentions, straws have escalated into something much more horrific than a simple product made of paper.

Exactly how bad are straws?

It is estimated that 500 million straws are used daily in the United States alone, an average of 1.6 straws per capita per day.

Because straws are typically made from polypropylene, they do not biodegrade in the environment. When the plastic does start to break down it becomes microplastics, small bits of what it once was, which poses a greater threat to animals that may mistake it for food.

It is estimated that 71% of seabirds and 30% of turtles have been found with plastics in their stomachs. I'm sure you all remember that video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck in it's nose? When marine life ingests plastic, they have a 50% mortality rate. Imagine our oceans without marine life!

Some progress

Thankfully, in the recent months more and more attention has been brought to this issue.

Places like Burger King in the UK, and cities like Seattle, Miami and Malibu are banning or limiting the use of plastic straws in restaurants. Starbucks recently announced that they would be removing plastics straws in their stores globally by 2020, in doing so they will be reducing more than 1 billion straws per year!

Small towns are also recognizing their carbon footprint and banning bags, straws, even takeout containers, all to protect the environment and bring awareness to this global issue. And just a quick shout out to our own small town, Harrisonburg VA, where Hanks Grille & Bar and Magnolias Tacos and Tequila Bar are now reducing the use of plastic straws in their restaurants. We are so proud of our town!

*Both restaurants still have plastic straws for use upon request. 

So what can you do about it? 

First, say no to plastic straws. 

Once again, we believe it is always a good idea for restaurants and coffee shops to keep plastic straws on hand for people who need them, but if you do not have that need, please consider going without.

When you eat out or grab a coffee to-go, say, "without a straw, please". It's really that simple. Some restaurants will even have straw alternatives if you do need one.

Second, if you do enjoy using a straw to drink from, consider buying stainless steel, bamboo, or even glass ones. They will last you forever, and you can use them over and over again!

We have a great selection of straws with many sizes in our shop! We also carry straw brushes to help clean out your straws when they get dirty.

And third, be aware! Don't be naive and think that someone else will take care of this problem. It takes a village, all of us, to limit single-use plastics and keep this beautiful earth we are privileged to live on, CLEAN.