A metal straw can be used as a common replacement to plastic straws.

Abby McHenry

Over the past year, people have become more environmentally conscious and aware of the consequences our actions have on the environment. Small steps we make in our everyday lives can make big changes.

Straws have been most recently put in the spotlight. According to USA Today, Americans use more than 500 million drinking straws daily, enough to fill 125 school buses.

Corporations, cities, states and even countries are choosing to opt out of using plastic straws. Starbucks announced that they will no longer be using plastic straws at their 28,000 locations worldwide by 2020. Seattle became the first city to ban plastic straws (restaurants could be fined a whopping $250). California is the first state to regulate plastic straw usage (in the food service industry, plastic straws are not available unless requested). Costa Rica wants to be the first country to ban all single use plastics by 2021.

Many people are choosing to use biodegradable straws made of paper instead of plastic ones. Others have chosen to carry around glass or metal ones or just not use a straw.

I have decided to carry around a metal straw or use a paper one if I forget it. If there are no paper straws available where I am, then I will not use a straw.

Some people are pretty upset over the lack of plastic straws, and I can understand their argument, but do not agree with all of it. Plastic straws are convenient for sure, but is it really that difficult to carry a reusable one or at least buy paper ones?

I know that plastic straws make up a small percentage of ocean waste, but it is still waste. Isn’t it better to make a small effort to prevent waste from heading to the ocean than doing nothing and just letting the environment crumble?

Yes, straws are small, but this also makes them easier for ocean inhabitants to eat them. A video surfaced on social media not too long ago with a straw stuck in a sea turtle’s nose. That alone should be a sign that changes need to be made.

Another argument against the ban on plastic straws is that people with disabilities need them. This argument I understand. According to Jamie Szymkowiak, founder of the Scotland-based “One in Five” disabled rights campaign, some disabled people take a longer time to drink, leading paper straws to get soggy or even disintegrating, which could lead to choking.  He also said that metal straws are usually inflexible, making usage more difficult for people with mobility-related impairments.

I think that plastic straws should still be available but limited. In the food service industry, straws should be given upon request. Retail should carry less plastic straws and more reusable ones.

The reusable straw I got was two dollars at a local acai place in my hometown. I only had to spend a few dollars to help keep the planet a little cleaner. Think of buying a reusable straw as your “good deed” for the day.  

I believe that, like anything else, we will become pretty quickly accustomed to this change. We all have to live here, and we all have to face the good or bad consequences eventually. This is the environment we are talking about, which affects all of us.


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