We are facing a catastrawphe - hundreds of billions of plastic straws are used globally, damaging ecosystems, killing wildlife and contributing to the pollution of our atmosphere. How did we get here? What can we do about it?
Straws suck! Here's why:
At the Two Oceans Aquarium, we know that straws suck. Have you ever thought about what goes into making drinking straws? And what happens to them after you’ve thrown them away? Here's what you need to know about the "innocent" drinking straw:
- Globally, more than 1 000 000 000 single-use plastic straws are used and thrown out daily.
- Straws do not biodegrade. There is no natural process that destroys plastic - even after hundreds of years in the sun, it just breaks up into small pieces. It's still plastic, and plastic lasts forever.
- There are more than 18 000 pieces of plastic in every square kilometre of ocean.
- Straws are not recycled. They are made of #5 polypropylene and despite the "♷" logo, they are not recycled anywhere.
- The 2017 International Coastal Cleanup picked up enough straws to make a line 145 times taller than the One World Trade Centre.
- A dumptruck load of plastic waste enters the ocean every minute.
- Over 1 million birds are killed by plastic every year - many by drinking straws.
- Drinking straws, like all other plastic, are made from crude oil - plastic uses 8% of the world's oil resources, so it contributes to global climate change.
A little histrawy
When did humans become so lazy that we forgot how to tilt our heads a little and raise a glass in order to drink? The first straws ever made were to drink beer - with no way of filtering the drink, people used these straws to avoid the lumps. They were completely reusable!
Only thousands of years later, in 1888, was the "modern" disposable drinking straw invented by a man named Marvin Stone. Guess what - this straw was made of paper. Even "bendy straws" - made out of paper.
It wasn't until the mid-1970s that the dominance of paper straws was overtaken by the disposable plastic drinking straws we commonly see today. Why? Because plastic was cheap - nobody cared about the consequences. But we are facing those consequences now.
Reached the last straw? Ditch the habit!
Obviously, the best solution is to just ditch drinking straws completely. But we know that some of you like a good smoothie, or don't trust the tops of cooldrink cans, so here are a few alternatives that you can keep in your kitchen, car or handbag:
Want to be sustainable, but don't want to give us disposable plastic straws? Go back to paper - the old faithful drinking straw!
The ultimate reusable straw - this glass won't shatter, won't change the taste of your drink and is dishwasher friendly. A straw for life!
We love this all-natural drinking straw. By making one sustainable choice, you can have a dramatic impact on the planet.
Nothing says "I want my straw to last forever" quite like pure stainless steel. This is a great gift!
Just use your mouth!
Our staff pick: Go back to your roots, just drink like every other animal on the planet - with your mouth!
Help stop the sucking!
Support local businesses that are ditching plastic straws and using biodegradable alternatives such as PLA and paper or using reusable options - e,g. more than 20 restaurants in Hermanus have pledged to give up plastic drinking straws. By supporting these businesses, you will encourage others to make the change and help save our oceans.
Long-time Aquarium partner Ocean Basket have announced that they've reached "the last straw" and are ditching drinking straws and takeaway bags in an effort to help protect our ocean.
Additionally, all food kiosks inside the Two Oceans Aquarium are petroleum based plastic-free, using PLA drinking straws and food packaging. It looks and feels just like "normal" plastic but will break down if disposed of in a correctly functioning compost heap - an important part of your waste chain if you are considering using PLA in your business.
Learn more about the #StrawsSuck campaign and the other environmental campaigns of the Two Oceans Aquarium - get involved and let's make a change together.