By, Caroline C. ’21
Americans use 500 million straws a day, an average of 1.6 straws per person per day. According to this statistic, the Winsor community uses around 750 straws a day–I guess all those Starbucks and Dunkin runs add up. Although straws are such small items, they are so frequently used that there is a larger amount of them produced than other waste or plastic items, like plastic bags. Because straws are made from plastic they are never able to break down; over time they separate into smaller bits of plastic but never fully biodegrade. Also, plastic straws are made with a chemical called bisphenol A, or BPA, which makes them non-recyclable. Furthermore, eight million tonnes of waste end up in our oceans each year, much of which consists of single-use plastics, including straws. Plastic straws made the ‘top 10’ items picked up in beach cleanups in 2017 according to the USA International Coastal Cleanup – Ocean Conservancy. Plastic straws pollute and ruin the ocean and kill marine life. Animals commonly ingest and choke on straws which inevitably kills them. Straws and single-use plastics are killing marine life at an increasing rate, and if action is not taken to prevent straws and plastic from entering the ocean, there will be more plastic than fish by 2050. We as the Winsor community need to be conscious of our straw and single use plastic waste. When asked about how often she uses straws, Chloe D. ‘21 says “If I’m being honest, I use straws way more than I would like to admit, but sometimes it’s hard if I’m tired and want coffee; Dunkin and Starbucks only offer straws.” In order to help this issue I would like to encourage the students of the Winsor community to either purchase metal reusable straws (which I have been seeing around more frequently) or choosing to abstain from using a single use straw that some of our off campus hotspots only offer.
The problem of straws has become more well-known, particularly because of straws’ harming marine life. Some large organizations and even countries have taken action to ban or reduce the use of plastic straws. The EU has banned 10 types of single-use plastic, including plastic straws. In the United States, progress has just begun. The Walt Disney Company has pledged to reduce straw usage with the goal of eventually eliminating them from all of their locations by the end of 2019. Starbucks has made a similar pledge saying that they have redesigned the cup used for their cold drinks to be more of an adult sippy cup instead of needing straws, with the goal of reducing one billion straws per year. Seattle, as of July 1, became the first major US city to ban plastic straws entirely. New York City, Malibu, San Luis Obispo, Miami Beach, and Fort Myers have all made statements saying that they will be straw-free by 2020. There have also been foundations and movements bringing attention to the issue. The #stopsucking campaign has gained a lot of publicity and celebrities like Tom Brady and Chelsea Clinton, and many others have vowed to “just say no” when offered plastic straws. Straw bans and movements like these are not going save the ocean entirely, but they will help the problem. Activists hope that straws can be used as a gateway plastic, meaning if people stop using straws, they will realize that they can stop using other single-use plastics.
At Winsor, we do not use plastic straws in school, but we, as a community, can all help this issue individually by choosing to not use straws outside of school and by spreading the word about the damage of single-use plastic and straws. I know that it is nearly impossible to cut plastic out of one’s life entirely because plastic unfortunately makes up a great deal of everyday items, but I would like to encourage everyone to be mindful of the plastic they are using and what it will do to the environment. So the next time, at Starbucks, you have the choice of the adult sippy cup lid or the straw lid, “just say no” to single-use plastic straws and sip away!