By FLORO MERCENE
WHEN plastic degrades, it breaks down into smaller pieces. The bulk of the plastic will seem to disappear when it degrades. However, what’s really happening is that the plastic is breaking into smaller pieces, invisible to the naked eye, that will always remain on the Earth.
As of early 2018, data from Ocean Conservancy shows that plastic straws/stirrers are the 11th most commonly found ocean trash in cleanups, making up about 3% of recovered trash. Plastic straws take up to 200 years to degrade, but will never be fully off the Earth. To make matters worse, the degrading of plastic releases chemicals that are toxic to wildlife and people. In the USA alone, 500 million straws are consumed every day. All these straws and plastic polluting our oceans have a highly negative impact on marine life. Take for example the video that went viral where researchers off the coast of Costa Rica remove a plastic straw that had been embedded in the nostril of an Olive ridley sea turtle. It’s likely that the sea turtle accidentally swallowed the straw, and then had it stuck up its nostril while trying to cough the straw out.
Straws are especially dangerous to seabirds as they can be easily picked up and swallowed, suffocating and choking the bird. In fact, over 1 million seabirds die each year from ingesting plastic.
People have started using paper straws in England. In parts of the United States, straws made out of pasta are also being used. By 2020, Starbucks branches all around the world will be using non plastic straws. McDonald’s announced that it would phase out plastic straws from its 1,300 U.K. restaurants and begin a trial run of paper straws in some of its locations.
We can start doing our part now by politely declining plastic straws and stirrers whenever we don’t need them.