Single-use drinking straws have gained wide attention in green circles, which doesn’t come as a surprise. They go directly to the landfill, where small organisms such as insects and bacteria can’t break them down by consuming them. As the plastic finally starts to degrade, it releases harmful chemicals into the atmosphere such as BPA, which is associated with environmental pollution, not to mention health issues. Examples include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
National Geographic reports that 500 million straws are used in the United States alone every day. What’s concerning is that 8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, straws accounting for approximately 0,025%. When they get into the ocean, single-use straws put marine life in danger. Chances are that you’re familiar with the video that’s become viral on YouTube, in which a turtle gets a plastic straw removed from its nose by rescuers. That’s a typical example of how straws hurt the environment.
Plastic straws can severely endanger and even kill sea fish, turtles, and birds when they accidentally ingest them. The question now is: Who is responsible for the plastic pollution. Well, the responsibility falls onto producers and distributors. Owing to shifts in consumer awareness, the days of plastic straws are numbered. The public is increasingly aware of the inherent environmental impact due to plastic waste and have disclosed they’re willing to do without them. This mightn’t be the end of the throwaway society, but it’s a promising beginning.
Plastic straws can’t be recycled, in case you were wondering
Many mistakenly believe that plastic straws can be recycled, even though they’re made from polypropylene plastic, a recyclable material. The truth is that single-use straws are too small and often get lost in the sorting process. To be more precise, they’re too lightweight to make it through the mechanical recycling sorter. Another issue is that these items are often contaminated with sticky substances. The outcome is that the straws are discarded due to lack of cleanliness and quality.
Businesses in the hospitality industry, such as restaurants, now have recycling bins and vertical balers to compact waste and bale recyclables. There are recycling machines for different materials. Examples include high-speed balers, alligator shears, compactors, and combined specialist waste handling equipment. Most accepted plastic recyclables comprise bottles, jars, and jugs. Straws, together with plastic bags, are technically recyclable, but they’re refused by recycling programs due to the reasons enumerated above.
So, many more companies are recycling and, while it makes a difference, it’s not enough to curb plastic pollution. Even if they deliver a modern drinking experience, single-use straws aren’t recyclable or safe for the environment. Many of them are consumed through restaurants. The best way to do your bid for the environment is to remove straws from your business. Unless they’re specifically requested by the customer, you shouldn’t offer them.
Under pressure: Companies are forced to give up plastic straws
Plastic straws, which play an important part in everyday life, have gained a bad reputation. Many countries have banned plastics, of which example can be made of Vanuatu and the Seychelles. According to Statista, 14% percent of countries in the world have banned or restricted single-use plastic items. The number of countries prohibiting single-use plastics will grow by the end of 2021, as an EU law will go into effect. The Single-Use Plastics Directive means that EU member states won’t be able to continue to deploy products such as straws, cotton buds, stirrers, cutlery, and plates.
Australians, who use about 10 million straws a day, will no longer be able to enjoy single-use plastic items when they consume refreshing drinks. South Australia recently became the first Australian state to ban single-use plastic items, so plastic straws and cutlery is a thing of the past. It’s expected that Queensland will make a similar move and introduce a ban in September. Not surprisingly, consumers have been demanding this and the market has been offering alternatives. Plastic straws are only available to people who suffer from serious medical conditions or have a disability.
How your business say NO to plastic straws
As mentioned earlier, its’ expected that more and more countries will take action against plastic straws in the near future. Nations are making the move towards the circular economy, which is essential when it comes down to plastic pollution. Businesses of all types and sizes can join the anti-straw movement. There are already companies who have successfully eliminated plastic straw waste. Examples of corporations that are getting rid of plastic for good are:
- Costa Coffee
- Tottenham Hotspur
Eliminating plastic straws doesn’t translate into direct income, but there’s existential value in doing it. Don’t overlook the environmental impact of single-use plastic items. You don’t need to hand out straws to every drink. Transitioning away from plastic straws can help your organization get positive attention and serve great experiences.
There are better alternatives for plastic straws
There are several alternatives to plastic straws out there, which are manufactured from plant-based plastics, steel, bamboo, and straw. As you say yes to straw alternatives, adopt the policy to only provide straws upon request. This way, you can balance the high cost of non-plastic alternatives and eliminate overall waste. What solution will work for your business depends largely on cost, available suppliers, and the number of straws you currently use, and, last but certainly not least, the number of recycling options in your area.
Plastic recycling tip: Consider installing a baler
The hospitality industry is a major source of single-use, disposable plastic items such as straws, plates, water bottles, and so on. Since plastic waste is a global problem, you’ll want to remove it from your waste stream. One way of doing that is to install a baler, which makes the recyclable material easier to transport. Basically, it’s ready to be reclaimed. Bale plastics and remove it from your waste stream. Types of plastic that can be recycled include:
- Low-density polystyrene
- Plasticized Polyvinyl chloride
- High-density polyethylene
- Polyethylene terephthalate
Well, now, you know.