Plastic Straws in the Ocean, the (Potential) Solutions!

Plastic Straws on a Bar

I recently wrote a post about the plastic straws in the ocean and the problems that they cause. In the post, I talked about the throw-away culture we have in our society today, the problems we have with recycling plastic straws and the effect they are having on marine life. So if you haven’t already, feel free to have a read. Hopefully it shows why I am writing this post and why you should stop using plastic straws.

In this post, I will be discussing the ways you can help reduce the number of plastic straws being used everyday (over 500 million, per day, in the US alone) and, in turn, reduce the number that make their way into the ocean.

There are different ways we can all help. Some will take more time and effort than others, but even if you only follow one or two of my suggestions, you will already become part of the solution.

Say No Straws

Yes, I know what you are thinking, ‘why are you telling me something so obvious?’ and I understand why you would think such a thing, but as glaringly obvious as saying no to straws may be, it is still a very important point.

It is one thing to not pick up a straw from the counter at McDonalds or Starbucks, but it is a bit more difficult to get into the routine of actually asking your server to not put a straw in your drink. As a bartender in a previous life, I understand servers are trained to put plastic straws in certain drinks as part of its presentation (I will go into more detail about this later). So they will continue to put plastic straws in your drink, until you ask otherwise.

So the next time you are ordering that well-deserved pina colada, be sure to say the magic words to your server, ‘no straw, please’.

Education is Key

As with many of the problems we face today, I believe education is the key to stopping our plastic pollution problem. Had we known the scale of the problems plastic would cause and will continue to cause, I honestly don’t believe we would have let plastic infiltrate every aspect of our lives in the way it has, especially with almost completely unnecessary items, such as straws.

Man Teaching a Child

You can educate yourself and others by reading blogs, e books, watching YouTube videos and much more. There are also many short films and productions (such as the one posted below) that can be shown in schools and community groups to inform people of the issues we face. I believe in the goodness of people and I honestly believe that, once educated about the problems they cause, many people would gladly give up the slight convenience provided by plastic straws, or at least find a less destructive alternative. Which leads me nicely on to my next tip…

Use Alternatives

As the collective voices of people rejecting plastic straws and other plastic products grow louder, there are more and more alternatives becoming available. There are many materials that people are using to make straws, including, glass, bamboo, steel and even straw, yes, you can actually buy a straw straw.

Bamboo Straws

With some of these alternatives being more environmentally viable than others, it is important to know the advantages and disadvantages that using these materials have, and weigh them before you decide to buy one. In many cases, it may just be best to go without a straw entirely.

If you decide you want to buy an alternative, I have written an article specifically about the available alternatives to plastic straws, so feel free to give that a read and see which products are best suited to you.

Talk to Local Businesses

Straws in a Coffee Shop

Bars, clubs and restaurants are major contributors in plastic pollution and especially plastic straw waste. When I worked in a large chain restaurant & pub, I was trained to put a straw in various drinks as part of their ‘perfect presentation’ training. I was even told to put two straws in some cocktails, which thinking back on, just seems crazy. Many businesses are seeing the error of their ways and have either stopped or are going to stop using plastic straws completely.

If your local bar/pub/restaurant isn’t one of the businesses to see the light, you should have a discussion with a manager to see if they are open to change. Even if they don’t ban them completely, a policy change, such as, only giving straws to customers that ask for them can greatly reduce their usage. They can even offer reusable straws for customers to buy, which will pocket them some extra money and encourage them to educate more customers on the problems with plastic straws. Everybody wins.

Talk to Local Government

As with local businesses, many cities, states and countries have already banned various single-use plastic products, but the vast majority have not. If you have a little time, you can research what your and national government is doing and/or planning, when it comes to reducing plastic waste.

The more people that talk about the subject, the more local governments will listen. It is their job to keep their constituents happy after all. You can create or sign petitions, the UK and US both have government websites for petitions, which can lead to politicians having to discuss certain issues if they receive enough signatures. You can also discuss the issue at local council meetings.

That’s All Folks!

So there you have it. These are my top tips for reducing (and hopefully eliminating) your plastic straw usage. While I do not expect all of you to start calling your local businesses and government officials, I do hope that the next time you are hosting a children’s birthday party or sipping cocktails with your friends, you will skip the plastic straw. If we all do that, we are at least, heading in the right direction.

As always, please fell free to share your thoughts and ideas on the article and how we can do more.

Thanks for reading!

Simon

10 thoughts on “Plastic Straws in the Ocean, the (Potential) Solutions!”

  1. Lots of great tips and ideas on how to eliminate straws from use in our daily lives. Most definitely this is a subject whose time has come as the tons of plastic piles up and enters into the waters, oceans, the fish, and eventually into us (micro-plastic fibers)…

    The idea to mobilize Government (at all levels I think, from local to international) is sound, as is the idea to get businesses also involved. It also comes down to us too. We can choose to use alternatives and demand that such alternatives are offered for all. Companies that refuse we can avoid, and those that act responsibly with plastics we can give our business to…

    As silly as it may sound, we can make a difference, each one of us. If there are enough of us, change can and will come. I appreciate this article and will get it out to as many of my colleagues as possible, they too will help get the word out. There are alternatives to plastic, we need to use them… 

    • Hi David,

      Thanks for your comment, you make some great points.

      It is true, while many companies may not care about the plastic problem, all of them will listen if we start to buy from more environmentally conscious companies on a larger scale. Which would give them no choice but to ‘go green’.

      Simon

  2. Thanks for sharing such awesome post. But one suggestion I have is to completely take out straw from our daily usage. Why is there a need to use straw to drink? It’s not even hygiene to begin with. Now, when I go out with my family, I will tell them not to use straw and not to accept plastic bags when shopping… not even paper bag. Instead, we’ve trained ourselves to bring recycle woven bag everytime we go out. 

    • Hi Florence,

      I completely agree, the ‘say no to straws’ section was aimed at suggesting people not use straws at all. I never use them personally but I know some people who really prefer using a straw (no matter how much I tell them they are useless) and this is the reason I gave some alternatives.

      Simon

  3. Thanks for giving an alternative to plastic straws, the more environment friendly straws will help the oceans alot. Lets face it, people are so addicted to straws that some of them cannot have the will power of saying no to a straw and an alternative environmental friendly straw is the way to go especially if the plastic ones are benned. I will be saying no to straws from now on

  4. Hello Simon, your article about plastic straws I found very interesting. I like your naming of our socitey with `throw away culture` that`s unfortunately true, we made a lot of garbage, sometimes with no sense at all. Plastic trows are definitely such example, you made me think about it, maybe I should say something in a bar when we drink cocktails sometimes. Every step counts, thanks for sharing with us.

    • Hi Luke,

      It’s true, so much of the plastic we throw away is needless, that is what we need to change first.

      You should definitely say something next time you have some cocktails 🙂

      Simon

  5. I’ve been to so many bars where they gave me one or two straws in my drink, I really need to get in the habit of saying “no straw please”! Thanks for the article.

    • Hi Katie,

      Thanks for reading! Saying ‘no’ really is the easiest way to reduce your amount of straws we use. The simplest things can often have the greatest impact 🙂

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