“Here’s your drink,” the waitress says, placing your condensated cup on the table. In addition to the ice clinking in the glass, you’ll hear the gentle pat of a straw being placed upon the table, a decade’s long practice in the restaurant industry.
Whether it be at restaurants, bars, sporting events or any other drink-dispensing place, straws have become the standard complement to any drink. And yet the long tubular contraption, though seemingly hygienic, dirty up the ocean with unnecessary plastic, harming sea life and marine environments.
To combat this needless pollution and injury to the environment, everyone should refrain from using straws as much as possible.
We all know that there’s plastic in the ocean -- 8 million tons, to be exact. Half these items are single-use only, so those chip bags, plastic bottles and plastic bags find their way in the water, where they won’t fully decompose for approximately 450 years. However, decomposition is still beginning, and when plastic breaks down it releases the known endocrine disruptor BPA. It affects the reproductive systems of molluscs, crustaceans, and amphibians, and these effects permeate along the ocean’s food web.
But how much of this is straws? Considering the fact that 500 million straws are used daily and they are often an afterthought for most people, straws very rarely make it to the recycling center or even landfill. They slip away unnoticed and line the beaches, decaying BPA along the sand.
Quite the straw-ful situation.
"If you have the opportunity to make this choice and not to use a plastic straw, this can help keep this item off our beaches and raise awareness on plastic in the ocean," says Dr. Jenna Jambeck, an associate professor in UGA's College of Engineering in an interview with National Geographic. "And if you can make this one choice, maybe you can do even more."
Local businesses are already combatting needless straw pollution. Places like Two Story Coffee on S Lumpkin adjust their practices to make change. Shelby, a barista at the coffee shop, had this to say, “We started offering for-here cold drink in glass cups, which we haven’t done in the past, so we’re super conscious here and try to do every little bit that we can.”
And you can help fight straw pollution too. Experts foretell more plastic than fish in our ocean by 2050, so one less straw used means one less morsel of pollution, reducing clean-up effort in the ocean and allocating more energy to restoring what has already been damaged.
Straws suck, and it’s even worse that they are so prevalent in our everyday consumption. When it comes to the ever mounting injury and ill-effect on our oceans and marine ecosystems, it’s up to us to decide what will be the last straw.
Written by: Mariah Manoylov