by Jo Macdonald
Bright, shiny, on hand in every bar, cafe and restaurant around the world, straws are part of modern life. Most of us chuck one in our drink without thinking twice. But perhaps it's time we did.
These single-use items are completely non-biodegradable, so whilst over time they will break down into tiny pieces they will never fully disappear. And why is that a problem? Because they are ending up in the sea in their thousands, causing terrible damage to marine life, and turning our oceans into a plastic soup full of toxins. Considering around 12 million tonnes of plastic waste finds it's way into our oceans every year it seems that the very least we can do is prevent straws being part of the problem - and as it's estimated that several million straws are used globally every single day (500 million daily in the USA alone), it's a problem we need to tackle fast. Indeed it is thought that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish.
Straws feature in the Top 10 items found in beach cleanups and are often injested by marine animals, in fact it's estimated that around 90% of seabirds, 1 in 4 fish, and 1 in 3 sea turtles have injested marine plastic of some sort. With so much plastic in the oceans and so many animals injesting it, whether entire plastic bags, straws or tiny plastic microbes, it's not hard to see that plastic is making its way into the food chain and, those tiny microbes are by default, ending up in our fish supper.
What can you do?
Specifically ask for your drink without a straw in bars, cafe's and restaurants and encourage others to do the same.
Don't use straws at home or if you must then buy reuseable ones.
If you own or work in an establishment that uses straws consider making changes to reduce the number that are being used - or stop offering them altogether. If you happen to be based in London then you can join Straw Wars and help make a difference.