The production of plastic was first viewed as a miracle, the birth of a surprisingly durable material. But used as a disposable material, that durability is part of its downfall. Plastic degrades very slowly, and it often ends up in the environment and in the food chain. In 1950, the global market generated 1.7 million tons of plastic. This amount has been steadily rising, reaching 300 million tons in 2013. A tremendous amount of this plastic is disposable and completely avoidable.
The fourth Friday of every February is Skip the Straw Day. This day originated in Michigan, proposed by Whitehall Middle School students who were concerned about the impact of the straws on the environment.
The Great Lakes are a significant area of concern for plastic waste, and plastic straws are among the top ten most frequently collected items during Great Lakes beach cleanups. One sweep of a fairly well maintained Great Lakes beach resulted in 414 straws in just a couple of hours. In 2016, 29,500 straws were recorded as part of cleanups.
What you can do:
- Skip the Straw. Often, a drink is served at a restaurant with a straw (or sometimes two) simply for decoration. When ordering a drink, you can ask for no straw.
- Use a reusable straw. Some straws are made of reusable materials such as glass or steel. If a straw is needed or desired, opt for one of these instead.
- Make an impact. If you are serving a drink, ask if a straw is preferred. Encourage businesses to switch to compostable straws or to go strawless entirely.
Americans use 500 million straws every day. This is entirely avoidable. It is time to move away from these single-use plastics that end up in our Great Lakes.