There is a day for the celebration of everything – even things you would never think need their own day. Last month, even straws had their heyday – January 3rd. Most people will think nothing of having a straw in their drink when they go to a restaurant, but we would like you to start thinking something of it. NOAA, The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, has an entire program dedicated to the issue of Marine Debris. Marine debris is essentially anything in the ocean that doesn’t belong in it – man made items that are either put in the ocean on purpose or that accidentally find their way there. It can range anywhere from large items (a floating refrigerator washed out to sea) to tiny pieces (plastic microscrubs from the face wash you use every day). One of the top categories of marine debris found in the ocean is consumer plastic. Of that category of consumer plastics, plastic straws are among one of the commonly found items during beach cleanups and are often a problem for a variety of species that live in the ocean, both directly and indirectly.
Let’s look at a couple of examples of direct impacts that straws have had on ocean dwelling animals. First, in 2015, a video of a sea turtle having a straw removed from its nose received over 10 million views. It can be viewed here, but be warned – it is hard to watch. Another disturbing image includes this one of the stomach contents of a bird – filled with plastics, any of which could also be a plastic straw.
It is easy to drink your soda through a straw in a restaurant and not think about where it will end up later. A lot of us will recycle plastic bottles and cardboard boxes, but don’t think to recycle plastic straws. Some easy ways we can try to make changes to our straw habits include:
- Ask for your drinks without a straw at restaurants
- Refuse straws when offered
- Bring your own reusable straws out to eat
- Educate others about the dangers of straws
Any attempt you make to use one less straw can help. You can also make a difference at your home if you are used to using straws regularly or have kids that won’t drink their milk/juice/water without a straw. You can buy paper straws on Amazon that are even more fun than plastic or even metal or glass straws that are reusable.
If you wish to learn more about plastic straws as a marine debris issue there are many organizations that have dedicated themselves to educating others about the dangers of the plastic straw:
– One Less Straw: https://onelessstraw.org/about
– The Last Plastic Straw: https://thelastplasticstraw.org/
– The Plastic Pollution Coalition: http://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/no-straw-please/
– The Strawless Ocean: https://www.strawlessocean.org/
– The NOAA Marine Debris Program: https://marinedebris.noaa.gov/about-us