UNDERSTANDING PLASTIC POLLUTION

Learn more about the problem and the Strawless Ocean program.

 

WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT?

Plastic straws are really bad for the ocean. We use over 500 million every day in America, and most of those end up in our oceans, polluting the water and killing marine life. We want to encourage people to stop using plastic straws for good. If we don’t act now, by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.


AREN’T PLASTIC STRAWS RECYCLABLE?

While many plastic straws can be recycled, most  are not recyclable. While some straws are made from #2 or #5 plastic, which is recyclable, straws are too lightweight and often don’t make it through the recycling sorter. Further, many communities don’t allow plastic straws to be recycled no matter the material. Like the plastic bag and soda can rings, straws fall under the category of “single-use plastics.”


HOW DO PLASTIC STRAWS GET INTO THE OCEAN?

Conventional wisdom recognizes most plastic straws that make it into the ocean are either left on the beach, dropped on sidewalks and streets, fall off of boats or blow out of trash cans and transport vehicles. All it takes is a gust of wind or rain storm to push these straws into water ways and into the ocean.

Most of the straws that make it to a recycling station will end up in the landfill. Plastic degrades (breaks down/disappears) very slowly - this means plastic straws will stay in landfills for a long time and given the erosion that can occur in the “bottom layer” of a landfill, some straws in landfills may also reach our ocean through local water ways. Seabirds that frequent open landfills may also ingest plastic straws.


WHAT HAPPENS ONCE THEY’RE IN THE WATER?

An estimated 71% of seabirds and 30% of turtles have been found with plastics in their stomachs. When they ingest plastic, marine life has a 50% mortality rate. What would our oceans be without marine life?

(source: Communication with Chris Wilcox, CSIRO, primary and contributing author to both studies cited)

What’s equally as bad, perhaps even worse is that when plastic does make it into the ocean it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces known as “microplastics” rather than biodegrading or dissolving, which poses great threats to marine life including fish.


ARE ANY STRAWS OKAY TO USE?

Sure! We aren’t anti-straw we just want to get people to stop sucking out of environmentally damaging single-use plastic straws. There are lots of alternatives available, like paper and reusable straws. (While compostable straws are good in theory, they’re rarely composted due to lack of industrial compositing facilities or composted properly due to confusion by consumer of where to place straws for composting.)

Currently we’re undergoing straw tests with our friends in the disability community to see which straws may be the best for individuals with physical challenges that require the use of straws and likely in some cases the use of plastic straws to fulfill the basic requirement of drinking liquids. Stay tuned for the results of the straw test!


WHY DID YOU USE PLASTIC CUPS AND STRAWS IN THE SUCKER PUNCH VIDEO?

For the sake of those getting sucker punched, we chose 4 compostable plastic cups in our SXSW Sucker Punch booth. We also chose to use compostable plastic straws, ensuring that both the cups and straws were properly disposed of.


WHY FOCUS ON PLASTIC STRAWS?

We already know that plastic bags and soda can rings are bad for the environment and end up in the ocean. Few people realize that straws are among the top 10 items found during beach clean ups and can do so much harm to seabirds, turtles and other marine creatures.

As an item of convenience for the vast majority of us, we believe refusing the single-use plastic straw is the easiest and simplest way for everyone to take action today to address plastic pollution. If we all take the pledge to refuse single-use plastic straws we will see a significant decrease in the number of straws found during coastal cleanups.


HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?

Take the pledge to go strawless and share your pledge on social media. Post a picture of yourself going strawless (or using paper or reusable straws) and use the hashtag #StopSucking on your social feeds. “Like” one of the sucker punch videos as a way to demonstrate your pledge to a strawless ocean and to share these amazing videos with your community.

SAY “NO PLASTIC STRAW, PLEASE!” Get in the habit of asking for no straw before you even order a beverage. And be ready to tell your server why. Suggest your favorite restaurants and bars make the switch to an alternative straw.


WHERE CAN I FIND SINGLE-USE PLASTIC STRAW ALTERNATIVES?