BY OSCAR NAVARRETE
Photo courtesy of The Chaparral.
Society today is focused on changing the world and making it a better place for the generations of tomorrow. Recently I visited Beeps cafe and they were doing their part to save the world. Beeps has a new policy regarding straws. I talked to Manuel Gonzales, Beeps café manager who said, “the company implemented this new policy in the efforts to be more environmentally friendly. We want to save the Earth and the oceans.” I asked if the policy allows for straws to be distributed upon request to which he said yes.
It seems that Beeps is participating in the growing trend to ditch plastics and other single use items like straws. Therefore, are plastics straws really a big issue? Apparently straws are quite bad for the environment and straws tend to end up in the ocean. However, is the problem bad enough to ban something that is useful in enjoying our favorite drinks?
Most straws are made of plastic. According to earthday.org, the world uses more than half a million plastic straws each day. While many people assume that straws are small and not very damaging like other plastic products such as water bottles, water bottles tend to be recycled more often since states such as California offer monetary incentives to recycle. Straws on the other hand, are not normally recycled as often and are often tossed out. Plastic takes a while to decompose or break down. No one knows for sure how long does plastic takes to break down.
According to howstuffworks.com, Japanese researchers have found that plastic can take as little as one year to break down when exposed to the environment. Straws are made from type 5 plastic and this type of plastic isn’t usually recycled. Thus straws usually end up in landfills where they remain there for a long time. In fact straws don’t really go away. They just break down into smaller pieces until it becomes virtually invisible. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) states that plastic does not go away fully, it only breaks down into smaller pieces. As it breaks down into smaller pieces the plastic releases harmful chemicals in the ocean. Thus it they can end up harming wildlife such as sea turtles if plastic makes it into the ocean.
Alternatives to plastic straws are appearing (or becoming more popular) with other companies pledging to introduce new policies to remove their plastic waste. The original straws were simply hay straws and they are still available for purchase today. According to a press release from Starbucks, they will do away with all their plastic straws, switching over to straw less lids. They will continue to use straws for their frappuccinos, but the straws will be made of paper materials. Straws that are reusable are becoming more available within the prices of under 10 dollars.
While the idea of banning straws seems small and insignificant this push will provide the grounds to further removing plastic waste and ultimately moving onto a more environmentally friendly future.