The Last Straw

The United Nations has predicted that by 2050, the Earth’s population will reach 9.6 billion. As a species, we’re already having problems with our resource consumption as things are. It’s estimated though, that with 9.6 billion people, we’ll need the equivalent of three Earths to produce the natural resources needed to sustain our current lifestyles. Needless to say, that isn’t really an option we have. While sources of renewable energy are crucial to prioritize these days, it is also important to focus on some of the materials we depend on in our day to day lives. Specifically, plastic.

A Means To An End

Plastic is not an inherently bad thing. In fact, its numerous applications and long shelf-life can be tremendously useful when used properly. However, as a form of single-use packaging, plastic is an unimaginably harmful pollutant. Clogging up oceans, and choking wildlife, the negative effects of our excessive utilization of plastic can be felt by nearly every species on the planet. For instance, plastic that ends up in the ocean is typically consumed by animals like dolphins, turtles, and birds. Sometimes these animals choke and die, and on some occasions, this plastic can make its way up the food chain, coming back to us.

(photo: greenmagazine)

Toxic Seas

One of the biggest culprits of marine plastic pollution is plastic straws. In the United States alone, we use an average of 500 million plastic straws per day. Unlike other plastic products, straws are too lightweight to be recycled, so they are simply thrown away. Unfortunately, they are also more likely to break down into microplastics, smaller, harder to clean fragments that are ingested by as many as 260 animal species. Fortunately, a great deal of work has been done to remedy this issue: several companies and organizations have started enacting bans on plastic straws: the New York City Council has proposed a city-wide ban on the usage of plastic straws by food providers, Starbucks intends to stop using them by 2020, and The Walt Disney Company plans to stop using plastic straws at all of their locations by mid 2019. Additionally, people are looking into several alternate materials for straws, like paper, metal, and silicone.

Flexible, Versatile

Enter KoffieStraw, a company that deals exclusively in long-lasting silicone straws. Thin, soft, flexible, and able to handle both warm and cold drinks, KoffieStraw products were designed to offer a healthy and sustainable alternative to both plastic straws and some of their more sustainable counterparts: plastic straws are unsafe for use in hot drinks as they begin to release harmful toxins, and metal ones conduct heat a bit too well. However, due to their silicone composition, KoffieStraws manage to subvert this problem. They manage beverages of a variety of temperatures while fitting in travel lids, being soft on your teeth, being easy to clean, both dishwasher friendly and packaged with a little cleaner. I used one for a few days on several drinks, from water to milk to coffee, and I was very happy with it. It was easy to fold up to put away, and quite easy to clean as well. I tend to chew on straws when I get bored, and this one hasn’t showed any signs of wear or tear yet.

(photo: isfoundation)

Eyes Forward
It is worth noting, however, that plastic straws are just a small part of a much larger problem. It goes without saying that there are other sources of plastic that play a substantially larger role in contributing to global pollution, such as single-use bags and plastic packaging for products. Additionally, plastic straws are a major convenience to people with a variety of disabilities. The outright ban of them in several notable establishments has been met with some pushback, and has led to discussion of focusing on the reduction of other forms of plastic, which might likely be even better long-term as plastic straws do not contribute to pollution as much as, say, single-use bags. The path to sustainability is a long one, but fortunately, it’s one we’re walking slowly yet surely.

(Cover Photo: 1xrun)

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