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You've probably seen this video.
That's a plastic straw being pulled out of
a sea turtle's nose.
The video went viral in 2015 sparking a public outcry
to "say no to plastic straws."
And over the years the campaign has gained traction.
Starbucks says by 2020 it will eliminate plastic straws,
pivoting to biodegradable straws and a newly designed lid.
McDonald's UK, American Airlines, and Marriott Hotels
have all announced similar changes.
So why do plastic straws suck?
Starbucks says, "One of the major issues
with plastic straws is that they are too small
and lightweight to be captured in modern recycling equipment."
We reached out to various recycling plants across North America to see if that was true.
While some facilities told us they do recycle straws,
two of the largest recycling facilities in the US
said its machines don't always catch straws.
So they end up in the trash and eventually in landfills.
So frustrating.
I know.
Another place straws tend to end up?
Beaches.
Dr. George Leonard is the Chief Scientist for Ocean Conservancy.
Dr. Leonard: The data from our 2017 international
coastal cleanup and there were 643,000 plastic straws
that were picked up around beaches and waterways all over the world.
To limit the use of straws
Starbucks introduced a new lid that resembles a sippy cup.
These new lids are made from polypropylene
which according to Starbucks can be widely recycled.
But there's one major problem.
Rachel Sarnoff: You know the objective really was to phase out straws
because they're not recyclable.
The shift to this lid really increases the amount
of plastic that Starbucks is using per cup.
I think it could be a part of a solution
but I don't think it's the whole picture.
Some critics have pointed out that straws only make up a fraction of our plastic waste.
So why is everyone so worked up about them?
Dr. Leonard: I think straws are a bit of a poster child
here for the bigger question of society's kind of
over-reliance on single-use plastics and the fact
that a lot of the stuff is ending up in our marine environment.
All plastics ultimately sort of break down
and fracture into smaller and smaller bits of plastic
as a result of being tossed around by the waves
and then by the fact that sunlight basically
makes the plastic brittle.
And so they create what we call microplastics.
We're finding these flecks of plastic in everything from the forage fish
that are at the base of the food web
up through the kinds of fish that we end up putting on our dinner plate.
If we get the kind of global plastic users
and the major brands like Starbucks
and some of these other companies like Coca-Cola
that everybody knows about to really take ownership of
their contribution to this problem
and alter their business practices
you know they can be real leaders here
and they can bring the rest of the plastic supply chain along with them.
So how do we start?
Sarnoff: We need to be more thoughtful about how we use plastic.
Dr. Leonard: We do know that there's about eight million metric tons of plastic overall
that ends up in the world's oceans every year
and that's kind of thought to be one garbage truck worth per mile of beach per day.
About half of that plastic comes from
countries in Southeast Asia that don't have formal
waste management systems.
Dr. Leonard: Much of their local waste
is disposed in sort of informal ways
whether it's behind the house or at a community dump
which is essentially sort of an open pit
or in some cases directly dumped into the ocean itself.
In countries like the US
plastic can also be swept down drains,
into rivers leading to the sea.
It can be flushed down the toilet
or left behind by beachgoers.
So what should we be doing differently?
For starters pay closer attention to your personal habits.
Sarnoff: Get into the habit of bringing our own cup,
fork, bag, straw.
That's what I have in my bag at all times.
Stop flushing things other than human waste and toilet paper down the toilet.
And remember, anything that goes down the toilet, drain,
or into sewers goes to the ocean.
All drains lead to the ocean, kid.
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Why Plastic Straws Suck

7811 Folder Collection
HsiangLanLee published on August 14, 2018    HsiangLanLee translated    Evangeline reviewed
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