As I am sure you have heard, many places are starting to ban plastic straws, as well as companies trying to get rid of them, to help our environment. As of July first Seattle was the first city in the United States to put a full ban on plastic straws. Recently San Francisco passed legislation to ban the plastic straws as well as plastic stirrers. Many more cities are also trying to pass anti-plastic straw legislation to help save our environment. In addition, many companies pledged to ban the use of plastic straws, I'm sure you have noticed the new cold drink PLASTIC lids at Starbucks. This is a great effort, but what will banning plastic straws actually mean for our environment?
If you were to count all the trash that is in our oceans, plastic straws would wake up less than 4% of the garbage by piece and even far less by weight. Plastic straws are very small, which is one of the reasons they are dangerous to sea life. Each straw weighs approximately 0.42 grams or 0.67 oz. When you weigh all the straw in the water it adds up to about 4,000,000 pounds. Which is a lot, don't get me wrong. But if that is less than 4% of the weight of the trash in the ocean, it is even more important to look at other pollutants that contribute much more to the problem.
There is about 9,000,000 tons (18,000,000,000 pounds) of plastic being dumped into our water every year, so clearly banning straws will not fix this problem. Between California and Hawaii, straws are ranked as the seventh most common trash item found in the water, having found 643,562 plastic straws in 2017. So let's look at what else is in the top 10 of this area that we can work on.
10. Foam food containers (580,570)
9. Plastic lids (624,878)
8. Takeout containers (632,874)
6. Plastic Ziploc bags (746,211)
5. Plastic grocery bags (757,523)
4. Plastic bottle caps (1,091,107)
3. Beverage bottles (1,569,135)
2. Food wrappers (1,739,743)
1. Cigarette butts (2,412,151)
It is time companies became accountable for their actions. If we look at all the plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean, 46% is fishing nets. It is estimated that for each pound of fish that is taken from the ocean, the fishing companies leave 2 pounds of waste. If there were stricter regulations on companies and they contributed to keeping the oceans clean, about half of our problems would be gone.
Big companies and corporations are by far the biggest polluters. Von Hernandez stated, "These brand audits offer undeniable proof of the role that corporations play in perpetuating the global plastic pollution crisis," in reference to how much plastic large companies pollute. The top six companies adding to the waste in our waters are Coca-Cola, Coles, Danone, Woolworths, Nestle, and Pepsi-Co. Although it is important for people to be conscious about what they use personally, these companies contribute the most. Companies need to stop utilizing single-use plastic items and stop putting the blame on everyday people. If they changed their ways and contributed to clean-up efforts, our oceans would be mostly clean.
Some of these brands are trying to make a change, however. A spokesperson from Nestle said, "Our vision is that none of our product packaging, including plastics, should end up in landfills or as litter, including in seas, oceans, and waterways. In order to achieve this, we have set ourselves the ambition of ensuring 100% of our packaging is reusable or recyclable by 2025."
Getting rid of plastic straws is a step in a good direction when it comes to the environment, yet they are the only straws many disabled people can use. So there can not be a full ban on them until we have a non-plastic bendable straw option. Also, there are many other steps everyone can take in their homes and in large companies that are necessary to help save the ocean.