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After successfully banning plastic bags, officials around the world are turning their attention to something we are all guilty of using for only a few minutes and disposing of without a second thought – plastic straws. According to ecostraw.org, over 500 million polymer straws, enough to fill 127 school buses, are used just in the US each day! Too small to recycle, they choke sea creatures, clog our coral reefs, and eventually disintegrate into tiny microbeads, which enter our food chain through fish. This means that every single straw ever produced in the world still exists in some form today. Now, thanks to social media campaigns such as #TheLastStraw and #TheFinal Straw, the urgency to ban plastic straws is finally gaining momentum.
In February 2018, Queen Elizabeth II eliminated plastic straws from all royal estates including cafes and gifts shops. Her royal decree also pledged to reduce the usage of single-use plastics such as cups, plates, and utensils at royal functions. UK airports followed shortly after, and, in mid-April, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced a ban on all single-use plastics, including straws, and urged other Commonwealth countries to do the same.
More recently, on May 17, Vancouver became the first major Canadian city to impose a straw ban in restaurants starting fall of 2019. The measure, part of the coastal city’s initiative to eliminate plastic waste by 2040, also imposes restrictions on the use of disposable cups, and plastic shopping bags. Scotland plans to be rid of plastic straws by 2019, and Taiwan is banning single-use plastic items, including straws, cups and shopping bags, by 2030. In the US, the officials of Miami, Seattle, Davis, San Louis Obispo, and Malibu are imposing similar measures by banning, or severely restricting, the use of plastic straws in restaurants and cafes.
Many corporations are also joining the fight to eradicate plastic waste. Starting this month, all 1,300 US locations of fast-food giant McDonalds Corp. have switched to paper straws and will only provide them to customers upon request. San Francisco-based Pizza Express, which is moving to recyclable straws by summer 2018, was spurred to make the change after receiving a poignant letter from a five-year-old customer requesting them to stop using plastic ones.
Marriott, the world’s largest hotel company, is going beyond straws. In addition to banning them at all of its 60 British properties, the company also plans to replace single-use shampoo, soap, and conditioner bottles in all of its UK and US locations with wall-mounted refillable dispensers. The move will eliminate 10.4 million plastic bottles, or about 113,000 pounds of polymer waste, annually!
Given the massive amounts of plastic waste being generated every day, eradicating plastic straws may seem almost inconsequential. But as Diana Lofflin, founder of StrawFree.org, succinctly puts it, “Giving up plastic straws is a small step and an easy thing for people to get started on. From there, we can move on to larger projects.”
Resources: theglobeandmail.com, onegreenplanet.com,Forbes.com,theplasticstraw.org