Due to a recent viral video showing a turtle with a straw on its mouth, there has been a worldwide call to boycott plastic straws. There is no denying how plastic straws are wreaking havoc on oceans and marine wildlife. They kill fishes and other marine animals.
The environmental impact is so bad that in January, various states have already made it illegal for restaurants to automatically provide them. Such campaigns count as an effort to reduce the 500 million plastic straws used daily nationwide.
Where is this straw problem headed?
Research shows that by 2025, the ocean will contain more plastic than fish. Despite recent groundbreaking inventions aiming to help clear the littered seas, plastic containers continue to end up in our oceans.
Unsurprisingly, plastic straws are among the biggest contributors of trash found during beach clean-ups. Because plastic tubes are too lightweight to be recycled, they end up as trash in the ocean. Soon, these materials start to pollute the water, eventually killing seabirds, marine animals and fish.
We appreciate the effort of several organizations to address the problem, encouraging more and more people to swap their plastic straws for paper.
Plastic straw pollution by the numbers
8 Million tons: Amount of plastic dumped into oceans every year
50 Percent: Percentage of plastic that is used once and then thrown away
500 Million: Number of drinking straws used every day
91 Percent: Percentage of plastic that isn’t recycled.
1,200: Number of animal species that are impacted by plastic through ingestion or entanglement
90 Percent: Amount of floating ocean trash that is plastic.
450: Years it takes plastic to degrade.
Replace plastic with reusable straws
If you really want to help the environment, there are now a lot of options when it comes to reusable straws.
Pros: No changes in straw temperature
Cons: Can influence the taste of drinks
Pros: See-through, so you know if they are clean; no change in taste.
Cons: Unsafe for children and inconvenient when travelling as it breaks easily
Pros: Inexpensive and can also be decorative
Cons: May change taste of beverage, easily breaks and falls apart
Pros: Easy to clean and can last a long time
Cons: May feel a lot different from what you’re used to when using straws
Pros: Highly durable and can last you a long time
Cons: Sensitive to temperature and may influence taste
How do plastic straws affect the ocean?
During coastal cleanups, among the top items found every year are plastic straws. As we know, plastic is not biodegradable. Instead of degrading, plastic breaks into tiny particles known as microplastics.
These are 5 millimeters particles which make them difficult to be filtered from the ocean. Plastic pollutes oceans all over the planet, interferes with underwater ecosystems and kills fishes and other sea animals.
How do plastic straws kill fishes and other animals?
If you see the video of a turtle with a plastic straw in his nose, it’s easy for straws – which are sharper than they look – to injure animals.
Research shows that over 1 million seabirds die every year. Among the most common reasons is seabirds choking on a plastic straw that they mistook for food.
Besides being a choking hazard, once these animals feed on plastic straws, it gives them a false sense of being full, which could lead to starvation and death.
In addition, there have been many recent cases of whales and dolphins washing up dead and dying on beaches with stomachs full of plastic, and that plastic is often cited as the animal’s cause of death.
How do plastic straws get into the oceans?
Since they are so lightweight, it is easy for wind to blow them to the ocean. This happens when straws are littered on a beach. The wind then carries them out of uncovered trash cans or landfills, leading them into the oceans.
In the same way, straws can also be blown off of boats as they cruise through the water. They can also flow through storm drains and gutters that lead to the ocean.
How much ocean plastic is straw?
Despite plastic straws taking the spotlight on dangerous marine litter, they make up a shockingly small percentage of the estimated 8 million of plastic that enter the ocean every year.
That video of the turtle with a straw in the nose is to blame. From there, many organizations launched campaigns urging people to skip the straw.
Similarly, many companies ramped up production of reusable straws, and marketed them as alternatives to environmentally conscious consumers.
Common questions about straws killing fish
What animals die from straws?
Apart from fishes, a lot of sea animals also suffer because of too much plastic straws in the ocean. These animals include sea turtles, sea birds, sharks, seahorses, and whales.
How many turtles actually die from straws?
According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, more than half of the turtles around the world have died due to plastic ingestion, a huge part of which are plastic straws.
How do straws hurt animals?
Apart from being ingested, straws also hurt other animals through its harmful chemicals. When they get thrown in landfills, they turn into microplastics. These tiny particles release harmful toxins posing health risks to animals, plants, and people.
Any plastic that you are putting in the trash can or recycling bin has the risk of ending up in the ocean. To reduce the chances of happening, try taking steps towards a zero-waste lifestyle, which you can start by lowering your consumption of single-use plastic.