Paper straws a non-solution for FSC sustainability

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Victoria Salvatore

In the three years that I’ve been attending Florida Southern, they’ve been making moves to create a more environmentally friendly campus. 

Efforts by Student Government and other student organizations on campus got rid of plastic bags in the Moc Mart. More recently, they’ve replaced plastic straws with paper straws in Tutu’s: which are extremely inconvenient. 

Saving the earth is a very worthy cause and it’s great that the student body is conscious of that, but the paper straws are barely usable because they deteriorate within 20 minutes of using them. 

I’m not against any alternative methods for plastic straws or reusable straws—but the school should have chosen a more durable option. 

For example, Starbucks has made some changes by creating lids that don’t require straws (instead, you sip from the lid) and one cafe in Malibu started using pasta as an alternative. These are some options that could’ve been considered instead of switching to paper. 

Florida Southern could put its logo on a metal or bamboo straw and begin selling them, and give them to incoming freshman at the beginning of next year. The college would be following in the footsteps of Beta Alpha Psi, the accounting honor society, which sold metal straws outside of Tutu’s CyberCafe last week. 

Faith Bresciani, the Executive Vice President of Beta Alpha Psi, said that the organization had bought 100 straws to sell over the course of four days. 

“We ran out in two days,” she said. “This movement is a big deal… we plan on continuing our sales until there is no longer a need.” 

Beta Alpha Psi has bought double their original product more to sell during dead week to students to fundraise more. 

Bresciani also said that there had been a disconnect between the advisor for the honor society and the students that led it— that the advisor had doubted the market for straws at FSC. The professor later conceded to his students that their intuition had served them well. 

Paper straws may be better for the environment than plastic straws, but Chung Shan-shan, the director of science in environmental and public health management at Baptist University, told Young Post they’re not as eco-friendly as most people think they are. Shan-shan said that while paper straws are biodegradable the bits of paper can still be be swallowed by small animals. 

“Even though paper is biodegradable, it won’t break down even after a very long time if it contains a lot of pulp,” Shan-shan told Young People. “You can find newspapers in landfills where, even after 10, 20 years, the words on them may still be readable.” 

Shan-shan stressed that paper straws are still single-use items like plastic straws. The most effective way to minimize waste is to stop using single-use straws and switch to reusable ones. 

It might be difficult to get people to use reusable straws, but it’s unfair to force students to use paper straws because they’re so ineffective. Paper is not meant to mix with water and this fact is especially obvious when the paper straw starts breaking up in one’s mouth while they try to enjoy their drink. 

If the school were to bring back plastic straws while selling reusable ones, it could also work on getting more recycling bins on campus so that people could responsibly dispose of their plastic products. 

On the other hand, the dissatisfaction that paper straws bring could incentivize the purchase of metal straws. 

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