Plastic Straws- A Peril to our Environment

Our modern society is witnessing a steep escalation in the global population along with rapid urbanization leading to several societal and environmental challenges such as increasing energy demand, environmental pollution, and global warming. Today, we produce about 400 million tonnes of plastic waste every year and by around 2050, global production of primary plastic is forecasted to reach 1,100 million tonnes.

Even though some plastics are recyclable, but not more than 5% can be recovered. The estimated annual loss in the value of plastic packaging waste during sorting and processing alone is US$ 80- 120 billion. The plastic debris gets accumulated in rivers, oceans, and landfills, causing massive damage to water, soils, and air, causing much threat to the aquatic animals.

Cigarette butts – whose filters contain tiny plastic fibers – are the most common type of plastic waste found in the environment. The other most common plastic items that we use in our daily life include the food wrappers, plastic straw, plastic bottles and caps, plastic grocery bags etc. These common use items form the major part of plastic pollution threatening the world.

Some Facts about the Single -use Plastic Straws

  • The United States uses around 500 millions of single-use plastic straws a day.
  • Currently, plastic straws make up about 99% of the $3 billion global drinking-straw market.
  • Most recycling machines aren’t capable of recycling straws, given their size.
  • Plastic straws only make up about 1% of the plastic waste in the sea.

Why should we ban the Plastic Straws?

Considering that the plastic straws make up to only 1% of the total plastic waste, why the ban on Plastic straws is so significant? Big Food retail giants like Starbucks and McDonald have completely banned the use of plastic straws and stirrers and switched to Eco-friendly options like paper straws and wooden stirrers.

Despite the efforts from such corporations, it has brought in a very little change in the overall plastic production and waste as they comprise less than a percent of the total plastic usage.

But the biggest change and the most important one is a change in the mindset of the people. When people notice that their regular plastic straws have been replaced with an Eco-friendly ones, it makes them aware of the plastic pollution and how some small changes in our lifestyle can bring a huge difference to the environment.

Why the plastic is such a huge concern?

Plastic is a non-degradable substance. It just breaks down into small particles known as mirco-plastic. These micro-plastics are very dangerous to humans as they can enter the human body through inhalation and absorption and accumulate in the organs. They can be found in the liver, kidneys, lungs and many other vital organs and can lead to many health concerns. Exposure to certain chemicals in plastics has been linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption, and other ailments.

Studies have shown that micro-plastics have been identified in about 220 types of aquatic creatures such as mussels, crabs, seabirds, etc. The perils of the ingestion of micro-plastic include growth impediment, physical impairment, and histological variations in the intestines as well as changes in lipid metabolism along with behavioral fluctuations.

The hydrophobic nature, relatively large surface area/volume ratio and extraordinary vector-capacity of micro-plastics causes the adsorption of numerous toxic contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), heavy metals, and endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs). The toxic monomeric chemicals used for their synthesis, including metal such as Al, Fe, Cu, Pb, Zn, Cd, Cr, Co, Ni, etc., will also add to the atmospheric pollution.

What are the alternatives to Plastic straws?

There are many Eco-friendly alternatives available in the market for the plastic straws. You may use the straws made of paper, metal, bamboo, seaweed etc. These are all Eco-friendly material and does not harm the environment. As an individual, we should consciously try to not use either kind of straws (to reduce the waste) for the beverages, as straws are just a convenience and we can easily enjoy the beverage without the straw too. For the kids, always carry a reusable straw in your bag. This will not only reduce the waste but is also hygienic for kids.

Final Thoughts

Plastic pollution is a very serious concern and every individual should take steps to reduce it. Reducing or banning the usage of plastic straws may not bring a huge difference to this problem as it is just a minuscule percentage of the total plastic waste. But it is definitely a step towards awakening the people and make them aware of the impact it causes on the environment.

Hence let us understand our responsibility and support the movement to ban the plastic straws. #banplasticstraws #noplasticstraws


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