• Meaghan Kilmartin

Plastic straws? We can do better.


PHOTO COURTESY INNOVATION EXCELLENCE

On July 9, 2018, Starbucks released the news that they would be phasing out their staple green plastic straws worldwide by 2020. They were not alone in joining the ever-expanding anti-plastic straw movement. American Airlines, A&W Canada, and the state of California, are some of the big players vowing to ditch plastic straws too. After the viral circulation of a video of marine biologists removing a plastic straw embedded in a sea turtle’s nostril, it seems like the right thing to do.

What is most interesting about this trending #stopsucking campaign is the inevitable nudge it gives all consumers to rethink their everyday habits and dependence on single-use plastics.

A 2018 UN Environment report highlights that, of the 9 billion tonnes of plastic waste we have produced, only nine per cent of that has been recycled. A staggering 79 per cent of the world’s plastic waste resides in landfills, dumps, or in the environment. At the rate we’re going, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation reported that by 2050 there could be more plastics in the ocean than fish.

Now in 2018, is this truly novel information? Just like the heart-wrenching sea turtle footage, the negative impacts of plastic pollution on marine life is not brand new information. From the late 1990s discovery of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to an animated penguin choked by a plastic six-pack ring in a 2006 Disney film, the state of our planet’s plastic pollution problem should be public knowledge by now. Does it really take a multibillion dollar coffee company to make us rethink the impact of our Frappuccino slurping?

And if a straw can be deemed unnecessary, what other daily habits can be dissolved?

Replacing plastic straws with a more recyclable plastic lid seems like a superficial solution to a greater problem: single-use plastics.

Plastic bottles, bags, cutlery, and Styrofoam containers are just a few of the items that are created for a single moment of convenience and subsequently disposed of. But the convenience of ‘Throwaway Living’ pales remarkably in comparison to its environmental impact. The reality is that most plastics do not biodegrade; plastic bags and Styrofoam take thousands of years to decompose, wreaking havoc in the environment during that time.

The solution lies at the root of today’s fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle: stopping plastic pollution at its source. The banning of the plastic straw is a wake-up call; it is a desperate plea from the planet and its oceans to realize the bare minimum effort required.

While saying no to plastic straws, why not go further and phase out all single-use plastics? Eat lunch at a cafeteria every day? Bring your own plate and utensils. Forgot your reusable bags in the car? Go and get them.

A great place to start is Hudson’s own staple coffee shop to pick up sustainable products like cotton produce bags, beeswax food wrap, stainless steel straws and ‘keepcup.’

Targeting a small-scale component of on-the-go beverage consumption can lead to a reassessment of our entire throwaway culture. It allows us to check in to our consumerist habits and hold ourselves accountable for our actions.

Only when our ecological responsibility comes ahead of practicality will there be a noticeable positive change.

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