Plastic Straws as a Reason of Plastic Pollution

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Plastic straws are a controversial item that has started multiple discussions and arguments about pollution with plastics. Millions of plastic straws are used and gone to waste everyday across the world. They damage our ecosystem by polluting our air and harming wildlife. The distribution of plastic straws has become such an issue in San Francisco that it is now illegal to use or sell them. If a waiter were to hand out one straw to a customer, they could see up to six months in prison, and time keeps adding on if more straws and distributed. Though this is an uncanny way of handling this dilemma, it is believed it will help save our oceans among other plastic restrictions. Yes, there is a problem/issue with plastic straws in that they hurt and kill marine life, and pollute our air.

The first link plasticpollutioncoalistion.org gives many examples of how plastic straws are wasted and what the issue is with the pollution of them. Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup data states that plastic straws are number 11 on the list of most commonly found plastics in the ocean which pollutes water and can kill marine life. They are extremely detrimental to fish and turtles. “Straws are also 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.”

Seabirds are very important to ecosystems by eating fish, crabs, and other crustaceans which keeps from over population. They are also good for research for ecologists to see how well an ecosystem is prospering. Without them it would be hard to study certain tropical areas because they are one of the only species of marine life that travel from land to water. Fish are also affected by pollution of plastic straws. A couple thousand fish a day consume plastic straws which not only can harm or kill them but affects the rest of the marine life and humans. If a fish does not die automatically from the digestion, the next consumer of the fish, let’s say, an ocean predator or human can end up digesting the plastic and this can cause extreme negative impacts.

There are 500 million plastic straws thrown away a day just in the United States which is enough to circle around the Earth two and a half times. Straws are the most commonly unrecycled plastic there is because most roadside recycle pickups do not accept them and end up putting them in landfills. People are constantly throwing them away in restaurants or on the side of the street, which will pollute our air for many years and takes up to 200 years to decompose. “Plastic straws and other single-use plastics are a non-essential part of our life. Yet, they cause so much damage to the environment.” This quote is saying that plastic is not a necessity to human life. We do not need it to live, it really is just a convenience, but if we were to get rid of it, much of human day to day life would be drastically changed.

This is what a lot of the controversy is about, because plastics are ruining our air and damaging wildlife, but is used for thousands of objects around the world and hundreds in our daily lives. Even though it is almost impossible to totally get rid of plastics, plastic straws can be eliminated. They can easily be rid of by fast food restaurants and diners because even though they are used for drinks, they aren’t a necessity for people to use, it is just a preferred and easier way to drink for some people. Another option that people are going to instead of plastic straws, is paper straws, which would be a great alternative.

Although plastic straws are a huge problem, it is not the biggest problem regarding ocean pollution. The amount of straws in the oceans is very little compared to fishing nets or crab traps that are left or lost at sea. There are many other items that are polluting more than straws like, plastic bags, bottle caps, cigarette butts, etc. With these other items taking precedent over straws it keeps more action from being taken.

The movement of getting rid of plastic straws means well for the environment, but recycling a straw here and there will not make much of a difference in the long run compared to other environmental issue movements. California Assembly Member Ian Calderon has put forth a bill to the California State Assembly to end restaurants from supplying customers with straws unless they ask. “Calderon stated that if a customer at a restaurant must ask for a straw, the customer might begin to wonder why the server did not provide a straw in the first place. Perhaps a brief conversation might ensue between the customer and the server about the environmental impacts related to the use of plastic straws, Calderon suggests.”

This can be an effective way to begin this movement, but the likelihood of it being taken to across the whole state is not very probable. The reason it is not very likely is because of there being so many other ecological issues that are more important. Also, not many waiters or waitresses are going to be educated on ecology to have an environmental conversation with their customers. However, there are plenty of alternatives to plastic straws. Although more expensive this small change in every restraint across the country or across the world is an extremely easy fix for keep ecosystems thriving for hundreds and thousands of years to come.

This begs the question, why is there no federal ban on plastic straws? Over 182 trillion straws are put into landfills every year most of which ends up in the ocean. New York City, California, Hawaii, Washington, New Jersey, and Florida have all passed legislation in the past few years completely banning plastic straws. So why hasn’t the federal government stepped in to ban these very harmful materials. Instead only certain regions of the united states are slowly starting to see the affects. But if everyone waits until they see drastic changes because of plastic pollution, It will be far too late.

Plastic straws are a problem, and an even bigger problem is the lack of action. “8 million metric tons of plastic waste went into the ocean in 2010” (Weule 1), and that number has been on the rise ever since. Plastic straws are killing marine life and damaging ecosystems every day and it is getting worse. For people to be okay with killing marine life and destroying ecosystems to save a few bucks is completely unacceptable. Marine life is dying every day and by the hundreds due to just plastic straws, and by even bigger numbers if you include all plastics.

Plastic straws are handed out every day by about anywhere you can get a drink. A simple change with using compostable straws is an easy fix with unbelievable upside. This change can make it so every man, woman, and child for years and years to come can go to a clean beach and see amazing wildlife. However, keeping these awful things around will make the amazing beaches we all love to go to now, filthy and unrecognizable in the future.


  1. https://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/pft/2017/1/3/the-problem-of-plastic-straws-and-how-each-of-us-can-make-a-difference
  2. http://www.dicyt.com/news/seabirds-excellent-bioindicators-of-the-health-of-marine-ecosystems
  3. http://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2017-02-27/plastic-and-plastic-waste-explained/8301316

Cite this paper

Plastic Straws as a Reason of Plastic Pollution. (2021, Apr 14). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/plastic-straws-as-a-reason-of-plastic-pollution/

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