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12 April 2017

The environmental impact of plastic straws


Straws are a damaging global environmental hazard increasing by the thousands daily, polluting the environment and waterways and injuring wildlife.

Over 500 million straws are used daily worldwide for an average of 20 minutes before being discarded. They are an item of convenience and essentially useless but people continue to use them despite their effects on the environment.
Plastic straws are one of many types of plastic polluting our earth and harming our wildlife. From production to disposal, plastic straws consume non-renewable resources and take thousands of years to break down. These chemically produced products are non-biodegradable and when disposed photodegrades over time, causing each piece of plastic to break down into small fragments.
Straws are one of the top 10 items collected in ocean clean-ups. The environmental effects of plastics are permanent and widespread with plastic contributing to approximately 90 per cent of the rubbish floating in our oceans. Approximately 46 thousand pieces of plastic contaminate every square mile of the ocean.
To illustrate the extent of global plastic straw pollution, imagine how many straws the world’s most popular fast food chain McDonald’s would hand out daily. McDonald’s operates over 34,000 restaurants in over 118 countries and serves over 50 million people daily. If only one quarter of the 50 million people McDonald’s serves daily purchased a drink with a straw, they would contribute 4.5 billion straws annually to global waste.
To reduce your use of disposable straws, refuse one with your next order or use a reusable straw. It’s these small actions taken by individuals collectively that leads to extensive positive change.
Quick facts about plastic straws:
  1. Over 500 million plastic straws are used daily worldwide.
  2. Straws are made from natural resources including crude oil, natural gas and coal which cannot be replaced once depleted.
  3. 20 minutes is the average time a straw is used before being discarded.
  4. Straws are one of the top 10 items littering our marine environment.
  5. 90 per cent of rubbish floating in the world's oceans is plastic, primarily straws, bottles and caps.
  6. Studies estimate 1 million sea birds, 100,000 mammals and countless fish are killed every year from plastic.
  7. 6,263,319 straws and stirrers have been collects at beach clean-up events over the past 25 years.
  8. Reports indicate there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
Sources: choosetobestrawfree.com; weforum.org; marineconservation.org.au; cleanuptheworld.org; mcdonalds.com.au/about-maccas/maccas-story


Related: Battling Australia’s bottled water crisis;  Pledge single use plastic free in July; Your war on waste  

Author & Editor

Tracey Bailey is the founder of Biome Eco Stores and mother of two. After working in corporate communications and starting a family, she made a choice to be part of the solution to our planet's future and started Biome Eco Stores. Tracey is passionate about educating the community about living eco-friendly and sustainable lives through her extended product, chemical, health and environmental knowledge.

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