Not surprisingly, plastic straws are one of the most common items found on beaches all over the world. These straws are manufactured from polypropylene, a by-product of petroleum which requires a large amount of energy and natural resources to extract and refine. Plastic straws may be used for only a few minutes, but their negative impact lasts for lifetimes.
Why can't plastic straws be recycled
Unlike some soft plastics which can be recycled, plastic straws cannot be recycled. As they travel down the conveyor belt at your local recycling facility, small items like straws fall through the cracks. This means that straws sit in landfill for years, polluting our oceans and waterways, and harming marine life. In the ocean, plastic does not biodegrade. Instead it simply breaks down into smaller pieces over hundreds of years. It is estimated that 8 million tonnes of plastic pollute our oceans every year.
The good news about plastic straws
Although most of us can live happily without plastic straws, there are many alternatives for those who need them. More sustainable options include reusable glass straws or metal straws. Some local councils in Victoria have started plans to eliminate the use of straws, balloons, plastic bags and packaging for all business areas including events and activities. There is also an Australian movement towards ending the use of plastic straws in venues around Australia. You might like to get involved in The Last Straw campaign.
What you can do about plastic straws
Say no to plastic straws
Reduce, reuse, recycle. Do you really need to use plastic straws? Wherever possible, avoid them, in bars, restaurants and at home. Remember to add 'no straw please' to your order, just as you would say 'no plastic bag please' at the supermarket.