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Photo: Dean Hochman/Flickr
Photo: Dean Hochman/Flickr

Opinion: Reducing use of plastic straws requires action by governments, companies and customers 

Apr 29, 2019

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By Mckenzie Gilbert

At Hooters in Rohnert Park about 40 people a day ask me for straws. While this is a small number compared to the whopping 500 million straws used every day by Americans, straw use adds up quickly.

When hearing this fact, would it surprise you to hear that those 500 million straws are enough to circle the earth 2.5 times?When diving into the straw and plastic use in the United States it seems that we are using plastic for single uses rather then for multi-use situation.

This is detrimental for our environment because most of this plastic ends up back on our streets or in our oceans since plastic straws are not biodegradable. Recently many states have started to ban plastic straws and are requiring that restaurants and citizens use paper straws instead.

In California, it is now illegal for restaurant servers to give guests plastic straws unless requested. There is a threat that if they do not follow this law, then they will receive a $1,000 fine or jail time attached.

This is an important law to become aware of since servers and restaurants are at such a high risk. The high risk that restaurants face are the fines and jail time associated with handing out unasked for straws.

Speaking from personal experience as a server, I would continuously observe customers not acknowledging or making use of the straw sitting on their table. Something that my co-workers and I have noticed is that once one person in the restaurant asks for a straw other customers see and soon they are all asking for straws as well.

We started calling it the ripple effect, kind of like dominos falling one after the other. A whole table will ask for straws after one person does then the table next to them ask for a straw and there on.

One plastic straw can sit in the environment for 200 years without decomposing, this means that the effect we are having on the world will still be here even when we aren't.

Needless to say, an object that you are using for a 20 minute period will take almost 200 years to decompose. Do you accept the responsibility of polluting the earth for those who will live on it one hundred years from now?

Plastics spilling into our oceans and landfills are another hazard of the plastic straws that we use. An estimate of 8.8 million tons of plastics enter our oceans each year. That is approximately five grocery bags of plastic along every foot of the coastlines in 192 countries.

Many fish that humans consume such as trout, cisco, and perch, have most likely consumed plastic materials before they were caught and served to us as a meal. There have been sea turtles found with straws in their nostrils. Also, photos have gone viral of a pregnant whale that was found dead with 50 pounds of plastic in her stomach.

After seeing these pictures will you still ask for one of those plastic straws when going out to dinner?

With the staggering numbers in the millions of straw use in the United States, citizens are creating alternatives to these plastic straws such as metal and paper straws. Also, Starbucks has been using lids for cold drinks to reduce the number of straws that are used and given out.

Metal straws are titanium, durable, and more eco-friendly than a single-use plastic straw. Paper straws are a great alternative because they can be made with biodegradable paper, which helps our environment.

In using these alternatives we will be able to decrease pollution in our world and also help save our animals and ocean wildlife. To be clear there are many people who say, “What is one straw going to do?” However, in researching the topic I have found that just one person bringing awareness to a cause can make a huge difference.

A proposal: restaurants should be making is to ban plastic straws. I’m sure after people hear the effect that we are having on our environment they will understand this proposal.

Many different companies are already giving out free titanium straws in hope to end the plastic straw trend we are in. If proposed for a ban of straws the next step would be to use to biodegradable friendly resources in these restaurants.

There are many other items in restaurants that could also be made out of biodegradable resources like to go boxes and plastic to go cups. Next time you use a plastic straw just think how you are adding to the 500 million straws already being used everyday, and polluting our oceans where our sea animals live.

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