Are Straw Bans Necessary?

Do We Need To #StopSucking?

Does one plastic straw really have an impact?

Aly Cook
Aly Cook
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I feel like this #StopSucking campaign popped up out of nowhere. Suddenly, Starbucks committed to completely phasing out straws and a lot of people jumped on the bandwagon.

Why did it happen so fast? Probably because (for most) it's a convenient switch. And once the bandwagon was off, people began to believe that by just banning straws we could save the world. Plastic is bad, so if we ban one plastic product, problem solved, right?

Not really.

Let's look at it from both sides.

First, the pros

1. 175 million plastic straws are used every day.

That must be a lot of plastic for our oceans.

2. Straws are hard to recycle because of their size, so most end up in landfills or oceans.

If you haven't seen that video of the turtle having a straw pulled out of it's nostril, where have you been?

3. We don't really need straws.

You can literally just not use one. Plus, we already have a growing market for multi-use and biodegradable straws for people who like using them.

4. We can change the shape of lids.

This also eliminated the need for straws, which Starbucks has already started doing in some places.

The cons:

1. Some people actually do need straws.

And a sensitivity to certain textures means reusable metal or bamboo straws might not be an option.

2. Plastic straws only account for 0.02% of plastic pollution.

It may be a lot of straws, but their small size and weight don't make as much of a difference as other plastic products.

3. Starbuck's new lids require more plastic than using straws.

4. Straws aren't that much of a threat to marine life.

Compared to plastic bags, balloons, fishing gear, or microplastics, straws aren't a huge concern to experts.

Banning straws won't have the impact that we think it will. It doesn't hurt for you to deny them in your Starbz, but this ban is not inclusive to some people's needs. This ban is not going to do much for the amount of plastic we dump into our oceans, but it might jump start some more awareness about waste.

Reducing the number of straws we use is just the start. Other types of plastic that we use every day are more concerning than straws. Pounds of plastic bags are found in the stomachs of dead marine life. Microplastics leach chemicals into the water and into the bodies of fish we eat.

There is a lot more we need to do to clean our oceans and empty landfills. Don't get complacent with just getting rid of one unnecessary item. Straws are just a stepping stone into solving a much larger problem.

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Are Plastic Straws Really Killing Sea Turtles?

It's no secret that plastic isn't great for the environment, but how sensationalized is this topic actually becoming?

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When I first saw a video of a sea turtle getting a plastic drinking straw removed from its nostril, I was obviously upset like any other viewer would be. I care a lot about the environment and about animal life and it was upsetting to see that a product of human consumption and ignorant waste was destroying precious parts of our world. I wholeheartedly jumped on the bandwagon of "plastic straws kill sea turtles!!!" but only knew about the issue from this video and what I heard from people or saw on social media. The whole topic of plastic waste into the ocean remained in the back of my mind until the recent pledge of Starbucks to stop using plastic straws in stores by 2020 reminded me of the issue.

As the topic of plastics and their pollution of the environment (largely the oceans) has become so recently powerful I decided to do some research of my own. If I was going to tell people to stop using plastic straws because they were killing sea turtles, I wanted to be sure that I wasn't just repeating everything I heard from social media.

Turns out, plastic straws are hurting sea turtles and other marine life, but a lot of what I thought about plastic waste was exaggerated (at least from what I had heard from others). Sea birds are the most impacted creature by plastic straws, not sea turtles. About 1 million or more seabirds die every year from ingesting plastic straws and choking on them. In research from recent scientific studies, 80-90% of seabirds have some kind of plastic inside of their stomachs. Also, the ecological footprint that plastic straws alone leave on the planet is actually pretty small compared to food waste or fossil fuels.

However, all the buzz about sea turtles may come from the fact that globally 86% of sea turtle species are known to be affected by plastic debris. Overwhelming amounts of plastic garbage in the ocean have caused a steady decline of the leatherback sea turtle over the past several years, so much that they have been placed on the endangered species list. Plastics can hinder eating and consumption, breathing abilities, and even reproductive capabilities of all kinds of sea turtles.

So while plastic straws may not be killing sea turtles in hordes, they are killing sea birds, and plastic overall have caused huge and deadly effects to many sealife species. We have known that plastic is bad for the environment and the oceans for quite a while, given the fact that the Great Garbage Patch was discovered almost 20 years ago, so it's more than time to start caring about the problem. If we can eliminate single-use plastic straws that aren't biodegradable, we can stop using other single-use plastics and make a better effort to reduce our harmful impacts on the oceans. Individually, we can move towards small changes, which can move our society to a more sustainable and healthy place. If you are more interested in this topic, I would suggest reading about how you can make a change or looking at this article and checking out this scientific journal.

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Vinicius Amano

@viniciusamano

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10 Of The Biggest Threats To Our Oceans, And What We Can Do To Help Minimize The Damage

Who doesn't love a good day at the beach?

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I've been in a very beachy or ocean themed mood lately, and it probably has something to do with the fact that I am currently on vacation in Florida. Anyways, oceans cover about 70 percent of the Earth's surface and even most of that we haven't explored yet.

But, let's face some unfortunate facts, our oceans could be endangered between all of the plastic pollutions among various other things that are a threat to them.

Here is a list of some of those harmful things and what you can try to do to help minimize your impact.

1. Trash, trash, and more trash

trash

YIKES! You all probably know the story of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but unfortunately, there are still tons deep down under the surface that can't easily be picked up.

Sadly, there isn't much one can do to help with this, besides just not letting it get to that point in the first place. For instance, if you see it, pick it up and put it in a trash can.

2. Climate change

21st century ecological sensitivity

Now, I KNOW I've posted a lot of articles about this, but come on, it's important.

One way to combat climate change is to make smarter choices about how we not only eat but travel.

3. Sustainable seafood

fish

You would think that with the word "sustainable," it would be a good thing, but alas it's not. Almost a third of global fish stocks are overfished. Fish that were once extremely abundant, such as bluefin tuna, are now becoming increasingly endangered.

Of course, simply just not eating fish isn't the way to go either. A new app called seafood watch can help you keep away and pick healthier choices instead.

4. Protected areas/habitats

protected marine habitats

Specifically, marine. We all know that parks and protected areas on land help wildlife such as bears, deer, and elephants thrive. The same is true for underwater protected areas. In addition to preserving charismatic and ecologically important marine wildlife, including sharks, dolphins, and corals, protected areas in the ocean can act like savings accounts for fisheries. Fish inside such areas grow larger and generate more offspring.

The problem is that they spill beyond the boundaries of the protected area and are harvested by fisheries as a return on their investment in the park.

One way to help is to back local, national, and international efforts to set up those parks.

5. Fishing subsidies

fishing

Ah, yes. The old Tragedy of the Commons. When there is something seen as a "common" good, more people decide that they are going to go for it because they think that everyone else around them is leading to, in this case, overfishing.

There is a crucial opportunity to take a firm stance on prohibiting harmful fisheries subsidies at the 2019 ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization. We must urge our national leaders to reach an agreement to end subsidies and promote a healthy future for fish and fishermen in our global oceans.

6. Sunscreen

coral safe sunscreen

Beachgoers are in for a lovely surprise to find out that what is protecting them could be destroying corals, many of which are home to marine life.

One way to help with this is to use sunscreen that is reef-friendly.

7. Acidification

acidification

This is what I was talking about when I said that we affect more than just the surface, and it's not just an effect seen in the oceans either. Acidification is the ongoing decrease in the pH of the Earth's oceans, caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

How to solve this? Reducing our use of so many of things, like fertilizer, may help and then washing it away, or putting plastic down somewhere and forgetting about it.

8. Whaling

killer whales jumping

It's hard to believe commercial whaling still happens, isn't it?

The practice was rampant for so long that many whale species were driven to the brink of extinction. In the US, the North Atlantic right whale is down to about 350 remaining individuals.

Good news is that this is not as popular now as it was before, and the moratorium on commercial whaling Greenpeace and allies won in 1986 — honored by all but Japan, Iceland, and Norway — is slowly helping most of the great whale populations to recover.

9. Humans

i am a human being

And not just us, but the activities we do. Our species put more trash (and has a bigger ecological footprint) than any other species, and most of it begins on land.

10.  Influence your community

porky pig

Even if you are landlocked and the closest ocean is miles and miles away. Every little bit helps.

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