Trials of biodegradable alternatives to single use plastic straws have been met with criticism, but are the critics simply unaware of the broader picture?
BBC’s Blue Planet highlighted one of the many disastrous impacts that plastic has on marine life, which opened the eyes of many. Since then, Theresa May has issued plans to ban plastic straws and cotton buds, both being single use plastic. This ban could be initiated as early as next year. The Prime Minister has also urged other Commonwealth leaders to follow in their footsteps.
Since this proposal was issued, many restaurants including McDonalds, Wagamamas, Pizza Express and Wetherspoons have chosen to trial paper straws as an alternative for plastic or to stop using plastic straws altogether. The alternative straws are biodegradable rather than plastic which can take centuries to decompose. However, the responses to these new straws has been mixed.
Paige Blastock, a Wetherspoons customer said: ‘[With] The amount of straws that get wasted and have to end up somewhere, it makes sense. I think the paper straws are useless though as they turn to mush before you can finish a drink and just means that people go through more of them.’
As noted above, a common criticism of the paper straws is their quality and the material they are made of is often found to not last well in liquids.
However, Celly Carreira, a Wagamamas customer said: ‘I was there for almost 2 hours I think, and my straw was fine the whole time I even re-used it.’ She followed on by stating ‘I think it is an amazing replacement because it’s so much better for the environment it made me really happy when I realised they were not plastic but paper.’
Jo Barros, an employee at Wetherspoons said: ‘I see it from both perspectives. Plastic pollution is a huge issue worldwide and I think that something definitely needs to be done about it now.’ She went on to comment that ‘I know that lots of people weren’t happy about switching to paper straws because the straws disintegrate in their drinks after a while. I personally feel that if more people truly understood how big the problem of plastic pollution is then they wouldn’t complain as much.’
Plastic pollution has had disastrous effects on marine life with many creatures ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic that has been thrown into the ocean. Those most affected by plastic pollution include sea turtles, seals and sea lions, seabirds and whales and dolphins. Many of these animals mistake plastic for a source of food with tragic consequences.
According to Plastic Oceans Foundation, more than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped in the oceans every year. Half of this is estimated to be designed for single use which therefore includes plastic straws. The foundation aims to raise awareness about the dangers of plastics to marine life including through its award-winning documentary titled ‘A Plastic Ocean’.
To help the cause expand its message, donate to http://www.plasticoceans.org/donate/