The government has announced plans to ban plastic straws as early as next year. Your first instinct is probably to run to the supermarket to stock up on a year’s supply of plastic straws. Here’s why that’s exactly what you shouldn’t be doing.

1. Straws are amongst the top 10 items found during beach clean-ups

It’s easy to toss away your plastic straw with the belief that it will never end up in the ocean, however, international coastal clean-up’s have consistently found straws to be within the top 10 most discovered debris items.

Source: Ocean Conservancy/ International Coastal Clean Up 2009

2. You cannot recycle plastic straws

Plastic straws take up to 200 years to decompose (and even then, they produce harmful microplastics). So you know that straw you used last week? Yep, that will be on this Earth for the rest of your life.

Source: Giphy

3. Straws are polluting the oceans on a drastic scale

If plastic waste continues at this rate, by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs estimated that in the UK, we throw away 8.5 billion plastic straws per year. This figure is an estimate which should be taken with a pinch of salt, however, even when halved, the scale of waste plastic straws is still extortionate.

Source: Giphy

4. Straws are killing sea animals

Perhaps the most important issue raised by the use of straws is the unprecedented degree of harm which they’re causing sea animals. You may be familiar with the painful-to-watch video of a turtle having a 12cm straw removed from its nose. Unfortunately, this isn’t a one-off and humans are now turtle’s biggest threat. Strawless ocean reports that 30% of turtles have been found with plastic in their stomachs and ingesting plastic results in a 50% mortality rate for marine animals. A recent study found that the smell of broken down plastic is mistaken for food by fish. They then ingest the plastic, which in turn, moves up the food chain.

Source: Giphy

5. Each year, 1 million seabirds are killed by ingesting plastic

It’s not just marine life which is affected by plastic straws, with 1 million seabirds ingesting plastic each year. Strawless ocean reports an estimated 71% of seabirds have been found with plastic in their stomachs.

Source: Ocean

6. There are alternatives

If you’re a die-hard fan of straws (let’s face it - they are pretty great) then fear not, there are all sorts of alternatives. These alternatives include reusable metal straws as well as bamboo straws (which you have to admit, sound pretty damn cool).

If you suffer from a physical condition which means you require the use of a disposable straw, the general advice is to use compostable straws. These are still harmful if they end up in the ocean, however, if disposed of properly, they pose far less risk to the environment than plastic straws.

Companies that are boycotting plastic straws:

  • Wetherspoons: The pub chain has stopped automatically putting plastic straws in people’s drinks and plans to only use biodegradable paper straws from January 2018 onwards. This is said to prevent 70 million plastic straws from entering landfill or the ocean.

  • Over 60 UK festivals: This includes Bestival and Boomtown - they’ve pledged to rid single-use plastic by the year 2021.

  • McDonald’s: The mega-chain will be trialling paper straws from May 2018, with the potential to reduce plastic straw waste on an unprecedented scale.

  • All Bar One: After a #StrawsSuck campaign, All Bar One has replaced their plastic straws with biodegradable paper straws.

  • Costa: The huge coffee chain has announced plans to replace plastic straws this year and switch to a biodegradable alternative.

  • Pizza Express: Perhaps the most heartwarming story behind the reason a company decided to switch to a biodegradable alternative, Pizza Express announced plans to ditch plastic straws after receiving this letter from 5-year-old Ava:

Source:@WeAreTearFund

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