The Plastic Straw – The Antagonist of the Ocean

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The Plastic Straw – The Antagonist of the Ocean

Trash found at Malibu Surfrider Beach

Trash found at Malibu Surfrider Beach

Melanie

Trash found at Malibu Surfrider Beach

Melanie

Melanie

Trash found at Malibu Surfrider Beach

Melanie M., Staff Editor

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Do you ever find yourself sipping from a straw? The chances are you’ve probably sipped from a straw at some points of your life. What you don’t know is the massive effects it has on marine life. Before that one needs to understand the history of the straw and how it took over the world.

According to Sarah Gibbens, the first recorded use of a tube is dated back to the Ancient Sumerians they used the tubes made of precious metals to reach liquid in fermentation byproducts – beer. By 1888 a man named Marvin Stone created the first prototype of the drinking straw that was glued pieces of paper around a pencil. By 1890, Stone’s company Stone Industrial Mass was already mass producing straws. As the 1930’s began Joseph Friedman developed the bending straw after seeing his daughter struggle to reach her milkshake, he developed a bending straw by applying a screw into the straw. Friedman patented his invention and started the company Flex Straw in order to produce his design. The roaring 60’s led to the mass production of straws and resulted in popularity as the straws were cheap and did not fall apart. The straw began to be produced with plastic rather than paper. The 80’s led to new takes on the straw and resulted in the jumbo straw and crazy straw. By the end of the 80’s the straw was a popular item but no one was aware of the horrible consequences it would have on marine life.

As the straw integrated itself into society it began to add itself onto all the plastic pollution our world now suffers with. According to the Strawless Ocean organization, straws get into the ocean as a result of human error which includes straws being put in overfilled trash cans, straws being left in beaches of coastal communities, through littering which results in straws going into gutters and storm drains which all lead to the ocean. This might not seem like such a big issue but what you probably didn’t know is that straws are not recyclable because they are too lightweight to make it through the recycling sorter which leads to contamination of recycling loads. The Strawless Ocean organization mentions that as straws make their way into the ocean they break down into smaller pieces that marine life often mistake as food. As marine life mistake these pieces of plastic of food it goes into their stomach and results in a 50% mortality rates for these animals. The organization also mentions that an estimated 71% of seabirds and 30% of turtles have been found with plastic in their stomachs. They also mention that by 2050 our oceans will have more plastic in the ocean than fish.

 

Recently several cities,companies, and states have taken measures to reduce the amount of plastic straws in the oceans and reduce their use. One of the leading states in reducing plastic straws is California, Governor of California Jerry Brown recently passed a bill that bans single used plastic straws in full service restaurants. The only way in which customers can get a plastic straw is by asking for one, if employees give customers a straw they will be fined $25.00 per day if they do not listen to their two warnings. The bill will be enacted starting January of 2019.

To learn of ways to ditch the straw visit https://www.strawlessocean.org/alternatives/, and for more information on the bill that Governor Jerry Brown passed visit https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB1884.