Are Plastic Straws Really That Bad?- by Jen Blitchok (11) & Sydney Hudson (11)

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In recent years, a wave of movements promoting recycling and reusing have been all over the media. And with good reason. Plastic pollution is fast becoming one of the biggest threats to our oceans and the life that lives within them. Recently, the movement to get rid of single use straws has taken the spotlight.

According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, “Over 500,000,000 plastic straws are used each day in the United States.” At first you may just read this number with no thought, but go back and look at it again. 500,000,000 plastic straws everyday, that’s way more than anyone could imagine. That’s a scary number when it’s realized that plastic straws really aren’t recyclable and even more alarming that a lot of those straws end up in the ocean instead of being recycled or even thrown in the trash. There are some alternatives to plastic straws that can help eliminate the negative outcomes of plastic straws though, some of which are paper straws, metal straws, and glass straws. Alternatives are a good way to lessen the amount of plastic pollution but taking a personal pledge to stop or even just lower your use of plastic straws is also a big step.

Companies Getting Involved

With this movement recently making the headlines, big name companies have taken a step to get involved. Starbucks has been one of the major franchises to provide a platform for this movement. One of the franchises major goals is to eliminate plastic straws globally in their stores by the year 2020. Pending their removal, Starbucks will single handedly eliminate more than one billion plastic straws per year.Although many large companies like Starbucks have taken a step to get involved, local restaurants have become a part of the movement also.

One of the companies leading the way in Grand Rapids is Barfly Ventures. This parent company, to restaurants such as Stella’s and Hopcat, has not used plastic straws in over 4 years. The company has set a goal to compost or recycle 90% of the waste that comes through their stores.

Why Straws?

When thinking of plastic pollution, plastic straws are probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Most would  think of plastic bags or even cups. Although straws aren’t the only problem with plastic pollution and it certainly won’t be fixed by just the removal of straws, it is a good place to start. Plastic straws are not a necessity and can easily be avoided. By slowly removing straws from restaurants they could eventually be reduced or even removed from homes. Even though the removal of straws isn’t the solution, it is a crucial step in becoming a greener planet.

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