Are straws recyclable?
Considering plastic straws are found all over our beaches and in the ocean, you might be surprised when I tell you that plastic straws are recyclable.
The problem is because so many people don’t know you can recycle, which is why they end up in landfill sites, and then to our ocean.
But, the problem doesn’t end there, even if people do send them to get recycled, they are so small they end up falling through the gaps.
If this is the case, how do we dispose of them? It might seem like an unsolvable problem, but I’ve got a solution I want to share with you.
How To Safely Recycle Plastic Straws
Typically a plastic straw is a #5 plastic made from polypropylene or polyethylene. Until recently you couldn’t recycle #5 plastic straws, luckily recycling technology has advanced.
Although recycling technology has been moving forward at a high rate, it doesn’t mean that all recycling centers have been keeping up to date.
Many recycling plants can’t recycle plastic #5 materials. To find out where the closest place to you, a simple online search will give you the answer.
And even if they do take #5 plastic, you might find they still won’t take your old straws. Like I mentioned earlier, there is a problem with plastic straws falling through the gaps of the belt.
Anything that falls through the is swept up and sent to the landfill.
But there is hope:
To stop your plastic straws falling through the gaps you need a larger #5 plastic containers such as:
- Microwave-safe food containers
- Medicine bottles
- Plastic takeaway containers
Now, you got a container full of drinking straws. You can send it to the recycling center without the fear of them falling through the gaps.
So, yes straws are recyclable, but they face the same problem as recycled plastic bags in terms of them not always being accepted.
How Much Damage Do Plastic Straws Do To The Environment?
Straws, like any other style of plastic, is having an adverse effect on or environment. Overall, straws are the 7th most found ocean trash.
In 2017 the Ocean Conservancy asked for volunteers from over 120 countries to help clean local beaches. In their effort, they managed to collect 23 million pounds of trash and plastic products.
In the mountain of trash they collected, it had found over 400 thousand plastic straws, which in my eyes is an outrageous amount.
If you thought that wasn’t bad enough, it gets worse.
Plastic straws have been killing animals; it’s thought that over 1 million seabirds and over 100,000 marine animals die from plastic every year.
If you didn’t see it, here you go:
If that’s not enough to warn you of the damage we doing to the environment by using plastic straws, well I don’t know what will.
It’s not just marine life that is suffering from the effects of straws; it’s also harming the human race. Microplastics are being found in or water and in our food.
We are poisoning ourselves and the planet by not recycling plastic bags and drinking straws or by carelessly chucking them away.
How Long Do Straws Take To Decompose?
It’s unknown how long it takes for plastic straws to decompose. Although scientists think it will around 200 years, the problem is plastic hasn’t been around long enough for us to know.
And here’s the thing:
The US alone uses around 170 million to 390 million drinking straws every day, now these figures are an estimation, but I think we can all agree that’s a staggering amount of plastic straws.
To put it this way, that’s enough plastic to stretch around the earth nearly two times.
As I mentioned before, it could take up to 200 years for plastic straws to decompose. With these facts in mind, I tried to do some math. Notice how I said tried?
I wanted to know how many plastic straws the US used before one decomposed, and the figure I got was 2.847e+13 straws are used in 200 years.
Now I’m not sure what this means, but I’m going to say that’s a whole lot of plastic. The worst thing is the plastic isn’t getting recycled, the thing is, did you know you could recycle straws?
I know I didn’t realize until recently. If it wasn’t getting recycled, then where was it ending up?
Most of it made its way to landfill sites across the world or into the ocean.
Recent studies found that plastic will never decompose unless it sees the right conditions. And I can tell you now that the ocean/landfills do not offer these conditions.
Which, means plastic straws are likely never to decompose unless action is taken against the use of single-use plastic.
If you’re not up to date on some of the environmental issues we are facing due to plastic, then I’m going to fill you in about something called the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” It’s the result of humans’ careless nature in regards to plastic.
Here are some facts for you:
- The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located between Hawaii and California.
- The actual size of the garbage patch is unknown due to some of it being partially submerged. Some scientist estimates it ranges from 700,000 to 15,000,000 sq.km
- In 2001, a study was conducted to find out how many pieces of plastic were contained within one square kilometer. From the study, scientists believe there are 334,721 pieces of plastic in every square kilometer.
If you didn’t watch it, there is hope. In 2018 an ocean clean up effort was set in place to collect the plastic. The dream is that the ocean will be plastic-free by 2050; we can only hope!
If they are unsuccessful, there’s a good chance that all marine life will become contaminated with microplastic. Considering it’s one of our food sources, it’s 100% something we need to cut out.
What Can I Reuse Old Plastic Straws For?
There a few things you can reuse plastic straws for. Although none of these include drinking, sorry.
Some people are using straws for arts and crafts sessions with their children. The pliable nature allows you to shape them into various designs. If nothing else it will keep your children entertained; you’re welcome!
Another thing I’ve seen makes a lot of sense to me. If your house is anything like mine, the back of your TV is full of cables. And trying to find the right one to unplug can be a nightmare.
Well, this is where straws can come in handy. By cutting a slit down the straw, you can attach it to the end of the cable, effectively turning the straw into a label for your cables.
What Can I Do To Reduce Plastic Straw Usage?
The first thing you can do is to refuse a straw when drinking, let’s be honest, do we really need to use a straw for our fancy cocktail? I don’t think so. We got on well enough without them beforehand.
But I understand some people’s teeth are too sensitive, so they need a straw. Why not choose paper straws, or you could always go for a reusable metal straw.
Whatever you choose to do, I think we can all accept that we need to stop using straws for the good of the planet and everything sharing it with us.
What Can I Use Instead Of Plastic Straws?
Like I said before we don’t need to use plastic straws. In fact, we don’t need straws at all. But what if you can’t go without? Is there anything else you could use?
If you’re one of these people, then don’t worry, I have some great alternatives for you.
Businesses have been looking at reusable straws for a while now, and some of them are pretty neat:
- Reusable Bamboo Straws – Not only are they very sustainable, but they look pretty cool too. Bamboo is a very versatile plant, which doesn’t just grow quickly, but it can survive in some pretty harsh conditions.
- Reusable Metal Straws – Although they not biodegradable, they are a better alternative to plastic straws. Due to them being reusable all you have to do it clean them after you use them, which is better than cleaning straws out of our ocean.
- Paper Straws – I might not condone cutting down trees, but it is better than using plastic straws. Especially if the paper being used has come from a sustainable source.
Why not for biodegradable straws they’re better for the environment, it least it won’t kill anything while it decomposes.
We need to recycle plastic if we want to make a difference, if not for yourself but for your children.