According to Be Straw Free, an organization that aims at reducing straw use, more than 500 million plastic straws are used in the United States every day. In this case it truly are the little things that count.
Although a diner or two may consider a straw needless waste, very few perceive the little plastic tube as being a part of a much bigger operation of wasted resources—resources used to manufacture the straw, to ship it to a distributor, then to a restaurant and finally to a landfill, where it will take hundreds of years to biodegrade—all the while contributing to landfill generated green house gasses.
Anthony Clarke, co-owner of the Irish Restaurant Company in Maryland and Massachusetts found that after analyzing his three restaurants’ usage of straws that his business went through 180,000 straws annually, which cost him $2,000. Clark chose to continue offering straws to his customers, but switched to straws made from corn. These compostable, more earth-friendly straws cost him an additional $1,750. To read more about biodegradable plastic alternatives see this article.
Be Straw Free is realistic in not assuming that the world is going to stop using straws overnight, so they offer a few suggestions to the public. First they promote reusable straws when a straw is necessary or desired. Second, a significant amount of waste can be diverted through encouraging restaurants to only offer straws to patrons if they ask for it. Meanwhile, organizations like Be Straw Free are approaching legislators, city councilmen, natural resources and energy committees, and even the National Restaurant Association (NRA) to garner support for straw-free cities.
Writing for ETALKINGHEAD.com, Laura Kiesel sums up a throw-away culture’s impact through such a small thing as a straw, and conversely, how making a small change such as refusing a straw with one’s drink, can equally make a significant difference.
“That is why straws are in fact the ultimate symbol of both our profound tendency towards being needlessly wasteful, as well as our extreme potential towards achieving a more sustainable society through our smaller personal choices.”