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. It’s estimated that 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 (by weight).*
AREN’T PLASTIC STRAWS RECYCLABLE?
Most plastic straws are too lightweight to make it through the mechanical recycling sorter. They drop through sorting screens and mix with other materials and are too small to separate, contaminating recycling loads or getting disposed as garbage.
HOW DO PLASTIC STRAWS GET INTO THE OCEAN?
Plastic straws end up in the ocean primarily through human error, often 1) left on beaches in coastal communities and seaside resorts globally 2) littered OR 3) blown out of trash cans (oftentimes overfilled) or transport boats and vehicles.
While some city's waste management infrastructure is sound (like Seattle, for instance), not all communities have the same level of accountability.
Remember, all gutters and storm drains lead to our ocean!
WHAT HAPPENS ONCE THEY’RE IN THE WATER?
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.
It is projected that by 2050, 99% of all sea bird species will have ingested plastic. Mortality rate can be “up to” 50%. And, already, research has shown plastic in sea salt, 94% of U.S. tap water, and shellfish.
Scientists at the the UGA New Materials Institute conducted a new study which discovered microplastics particles smaller than dust or powdered sugar inside baby sea turtles. Of the turtles studies in this research, 100% were found to have eaten plastic. These baby sea turtles were likely dying due to ingested plastic pollution, which threatens the species’ survival.
What if people need to use a straw, are there alternatives?
Yes, some people need a straw! Anyone who has had a stroke, has autism, MS or other life changing physical issue needs a straw and often a compostable plastic straw works best. We have those available, if in need.
In some cases, the use of standard or compostable plastic straws are best to fulfill our shared need to drink liquids! Download our guide and champion accessibility for a #StrawlessOcean.
What about compostable plastic straws?
While compostable plastic straws are good in theory, they can be disposed of incorrectly by individuals when there is a lack of information on public composting depositories.
Compostable plastic straws are no better than regular plastic straws when they get into the marine environment. They are designed to break down in compost facility conditions, not sea water. That is why we support the switch to paper straws, not compostable plastic straws.
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?
Accept and challenge someone else to #StopSucking as part of our viral social media challenge! Take it one step further and get your favorite bar, restaurant, or coffee shop to #StopSucking with our toolkit.
At the very least 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.
WHERE CAN I FIND ALTERNATIVES?
* Lonely Whale uses the best available science to inform its campaigns.