Reducing waste one straw at a time

Getting rid of plastic straws in the U.S. is a goal of several current social media campaigns.

Have you seen one of the several social media posts about the number of plastic straws found on beaches, in waterways or in landfills? There are several active campaigns targeted at reducing the amount of plastic straws used in the United States. Plastic straws don’t biodegrade and have been known to negatively impact wildlife. This 2015 YouTube video of a straw being pulled from a sea turtle’s nose has gone viral with 24 million views. states that an estimated 500 million straws are thrown away everyday in the U.S. The social media hashtag #StopSucking has reached over 300 million people in 40 countries and territories.

These campaigns seem to be making an impact. Just this month, the European Union proposed banning plastic straws among other single-use plastic items. A February 2018 article in the Independent states that Scotland plans to ban plastic straws by the end of 2019 as a way of reducing marine pollution. Taiwan is banning single-use plastic items, including straws, utensils, cups and shopping bags by 2030. To date, some U.S. states, local governments, colleges and universities have taken action to reduce plastic straw use, however, no statewide bans have been adopted.

It is worth noting that many people have a medical condition that requires them to drink from straws. In addition, some beverages are best enjoyed with a straw, such as smoothies, milkshakes or bubble tea. The campaign For A Strawless Ocean lists several possible alternatives to the plastic straw, including:

To make an even bigger impact to reduce waste, consider participating in the I Choose to Reuse pledge which asks participants to stop using single-use coffee cups, checkout bags, bottled water, and polystyrene to-go containers for 30 days by using reusable substitutes.

Michigan State University Extension has published several articles on tips for reducing food waste, including this article on how to pack waste free lunches. MSU Extension supports projects and programs to reduce negative environmental impacts in an economically and socially responsible manner.

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