If Starbucks’ ban on plastic straws makes your love of Salted Caramel Lattes run cold, get ready. The coffee giant’s ban is just the tip of the iceberg. In the future, you’ll be much less likely to receive a plastic straw with your beverage orders at most restaurants, resorts and even airlines.
Single-use plastics are destroying our planet. And the ease of drinking beverages without straws is why so many companies are ditching plastic straws. After you realize the devastating environmental impact of straws, you’ll be happy to ditch plastic straws too. And if you still love straws half as much as you love the planet, there are plenty of green alternatives to single-use plastic straws.
The Pervasive Plastic Straw
Originally made of coated paper and patented in 1888, drinking straws have been ubiquitous in American culinary culture. You can get a straw at any restaurant or gas station fountain soda machine. Yet consuming your drink sans the straw is an easy behavioral change that has a big environmental impact.
Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day. The U.K. uses over four billion straws annually. Plastic straws are just one example of the explosion of single-use plastic in recent years. Globally, we’ve produced more plastic in the last 10 years than we did during the whole 20th century. And half of the plastic is thrown away after one use.
How Straws Harm the Environment
Plastic straws cannot go into recycling bags. As it is, Americans only recycle 9 percent of our plastic waste. But even if that number were higher, plastic straws would certainly be excluded from the overflowing blue bins. Their small size makes recycling nearly impossible.
Plastic straws are lightweight. As such, they’re easily carried by the wind from disposal facilities and make their way to waterways and eventually the ocean.
Plastic drinking straws are the 7th most common type of trash in the oceans. One five-year clean-up project netted 7.5 million straws from U.S. shorelines.
Although plastic straws only account for a quarter of a percent of plastic waste in the ocean, they’re fairly easy to do without. Sounding the death knell for plastic straws goes a long way toward advocacy efforts to do away with all single-use plastics.
Bans on Plastic Straws
Currently, several cities and companies have regulations limiting or banning plastic drinking straws.
Back in 2018, Seattle started the rush on banning plastic straws with the country’s first local single-use plastic straw ban.
In 2019, California and Oregon became the first states to pass laws regulating the distribution of plastic straws in restaurants. Both measures ban restaurants from providing plastic straws unless requested by the customer.
Some companies aren’t waiting for governments to enact legislation. These corporations are independently banning plastic straws.
Starbucks has officially phased out plastic straws. Their new “sippy cup” style lids for cold brews use less plastic than their previous lids coupled with straws. Most importantly, unlike plastic straws, the new Starbucks lids are recyclable.
Hotels chains, resorts, cruise lines and amusement parks are also eliminating straws. Most notably, Royal Caribbean, Disney and SeaWorld will no longer provide plastic straws with their beverages.
Of course, by the time you make it to your destination, you may forget plastic straws even exist. Airlines, as well, are beginning to ban plastic straws.
If you’re thinking about stocking up on plastic straws, you won’t find them for sale at Whole Foods. The chain of healthy supermarkets removed selling single-use plastic straws from its shelves.
Alternatives to Plastic Drinking Straws
If you love sipping your iced latte through a straw, you can still choose an eco-friendly alternative.
Today, technology and greater environmental awareness have brought the paper straw back to life, with noticeable improvements. Much more durable in liquid, yet able to break down in a landfill, paper straws are a much more environmentally friendly alternative to plastic straws.
Stainless Steel Straws
Reusable stainless steel straws are easier than ever to find. From Walmart to Amazon, you can use stainless steel straws as well as cleaning brushes and carrying cases.
Other Types of Reusable Straws
While stainless steel straws are the most readily available, there are several other choices for reusable straws. You can find straws made from silicone, bamboo and even grass reeds. For extra convenience, you can purchase a collapsible straw that fits in a carrying case that attaches to your keychain.
Ditch Single-Use Plastic Straws
Hey, the sippy cup doesn’t actually change the way your iced white chocolate mocha tastes. Learning how to enjoy your cold beverages without a straw is just one way you can remove single-use plastics from your life. Even if you can’t enjoy an iced caramel macchiato without a straw, opt for a reusable alternative. Make sure the straws you do use find their way into eco-friendly garbage bags to keep them out of the ocean.