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If you’re anything like me, from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed you’re sipping on coffee, tea, or red wine. Try as I might, no amount of Crest Whitestrips can keep up with my drinking habits, so I often turn to straws to prevent my teeth from getting stained. However, thanks to non-profits like Plastic Oceans and Lonely Whale, straws might become much harder to find. Why? Well, apparently many of the straws we use and toss every single day end up polluting our seas. According to Plastic Oceans’s website, 8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year—and this number is growing.
If that’s not enough to make you spit out your drink—and your straw—then maybe this is: some of the straws that we throw away end up endangering the lives of our favorite sea animals. Turtles have become this face of this problem after a horrific video of a turtle with a straw lodged in his nose surfaced online. And when I say horrific, I mean horrific.
So... why straws? They might just be the tip of the iceberg, but it’s hard to argue that plastic straws are essential, so its a great place to start. If you personally want to do more, you don’t have to stop with plastic straws. Cutting back on as much plastic as possible can really make a difference. When you have to use plastic, do your very best to recycle, and make sure you do so following your community’s guidelines. (You probably can’t recycle all types of plastic, and it’s likely that you’re supposed to rinse off any food or grease.)
So which companies are getting rid of plastic straws? The UK seems to be ahead of the US regarding this initiative—excluding Seattle which has issued a city-wide ban—but Starbucks, American Airlines, Hyatt, Royal Caribbean, Marriott International and more have all pledged to phase out plastic straws. Some of these companies plan to design new lids that render straws unnecessary, while others will switch to paper straws. In the UK, McDonald's has expressed an interest in transitioning to paper straws, as well as Pret A Manger and Costa Coffee.
If you want to cut straws out of your life right now, here are some tips on how to do so while you wait for companies to catch up. You can keep a reusable straw with you so that you don't have to skip a beat. This might be the easiest way to transition out of using disposable plastic straws. It's easy to find dishwasher-safe straws online, and as long as they don't end up in the trash, they shouldn't bother marine life at all. Similarly, you can buy a box of paper straws. These do take a little getting used to, but they're totally biodegradable so you can throw them away guilt-free. Finally, you can ask for your cold drinks in a hot cup, since the hot lids don't require a straw. If you want to take it even further, talk your local coffee shops and restaurants about ways they might be able to cut back on disposable plastic. Sometimes just putting the idea in someone's head is enough to create change.
Keep in mind that with any type of lifestyle transformation, no matter how small, adjusting takes time. Additionally, don't approach this decision with an all-or-nothing attitude. It might be months before you are consistently refusing plastic straws. This is okay. Every time you choose an alternative, there is one less straw that might find its way into the ocean. As painful as change can be, especially when it interferes with your morning coffee ritual, the next time you’re picking up your Starbucks, picture the turtles, and try to go without grabbing one of those green straws. The oceans will thank you.
You can follow this movement at #StopSucking.