The UK and the US use a combined total of 550 million plastic straws each DAY – and unfortunately it’s safe to say that not all 550 million of these plastic weapons are recycled.
We’ve become accustomed to expect a plastic straw in most drinks, and on average we use each straw for an estimated 20 minutes before we dispose of it. It actually takes longer than 200 years for a single-use plastic straw to break down – but, it doesn’t break down completely; it breaks down into tiny particles, which are toxic to plants, wildlife, fish, and even humans.
These tiny toxic particles are also known as microplastics. The size of microplastics means they can be easily mistaken for food by sea creatures and seabirds. Tiny creatures like zooplankton to marine giants like whales and sharks are all affected by microplastics.
These plastics can block the sea creatures’ digestive systems, lower the amount of food they are able to eat, and also cause toxic chemical reactions.
Straws Are for Drinks, Not Noses
One of the most shocking and disturbing sea creature videos to be aired: the sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nose. You’ve seen it, right? We’re not going to link to it on this page (as you may find it disturbing), but if you really want to see it then a quick Google search will show you what we’re talking about. Here at Bristol Aquarium, we try our hardest to protect our beautiful aquatic creatures and will fight hard for cases like this to stop happening.
Around the world, we produce over 300 million tonnes of plastic each year. 10% of that ends up in our oceans – 30 million tonnes of plastic entering our waters each year. These staggering statistics mean that the estimated ratio of plastic to plankton is 1:2. Unless we all work together to change our ways and say no to items such as plastic straws, researchers have estimated that plastic will outweigh the number of fish in the ocean by 2050.
It’s estimated that 71% of seabirds and 30% of turtles have plastics in their stomachs. Digesting plastics increases the number of marine-life fatalities by 50%! And where would we be without marine life?
The Last Straw
It’s only been in the past 20 or so years that we have come to expect plastic straws with our drinks. Straws are a prime example of extreme waste being produced for minimal and short-term convenience and use.
Plastic straws are usually thrown away without an ocean’s thought, and the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans is set to treble in the next 10 years. The current plastic pollution epidemic plays a major contribution to the Pacific Ocean’s rubbish heap – which is estimated to be the size of France. FRANCE.
How Do Plastic Straws Get into the Ocean?
There are many ways plastic straws enter our oceans:
1) They are extremely lightweight, which means they often drop through recycling screens and are then disposed as garbage. 2) They are left on or around beaches in coastal communities and seaside resorts. 3) Littering. 4) Due to being lightweight, they can easily be blown out of bins and transport boats.
Say “NO” to Plastic Straws
For some, straws are essential, but what are the alternatives to plastic straws?