Marine Pollution – National Geographic on Plastic Straws

Little plastics and lightweight plastics, rarely end up recycling bins; the evidence of this marine pollution is clearly visible on any beach. Straws are of particular concern of late.  And although straws result in a tiny portion of ocean waste, their size makes them one of the most prolific polluters because they ensnare marine wildlife and are digested by large aquatic animals. This marine pollution is very real.

Of the eight million tons of plastic trash that pollute marine habitats, the plastic drinking straw is surely a contributor to all that tonnage. Straws are the latest on an expanding list of individual plastic items being outlawed, heavily taxed, or outright boycotted in an effort to curb plastic marine pollution before it outweighs fish, a calculation projected to occur by 2050.

As straws proliferated into wide spread marine pollution, so did anti-straw campaigns. Some non-profit groups have attention-getting names like Straw Wars, in London’s Soho neighborhood, or Straws Suck, used by the worldwide Surfrider Foundation. Other volunteer groups have been organized by pint-sized environmentalists, such as the OneLessStrawcampaign, set up by a sister-and-brother team, Olivia Ries and Carter Ries, when they were aged 7 and 8.  OKSTRAW™ is doing our part to contribute to these efforts as well to fight marine pollution.

For context, last fall, California became the first state in the nation to ban plastic bags, joining a host of nations that already do so, including Kenya, China, Bangladesh, Rwanda, and Macedonia. France not only banned plastic bags, it has become the first country to also ban plastic plates, cups, and utensils, beginning in 2020. San Francisco banned polystyrene, including Styrofoam cups and food containers, packaging peanuts, and beach toys.  Marine Pollution is a serious issue, being confronted by countries and cities world wide.

Plastic Bottle Cap Ban – California’s Plastic Free Future

California is considering a ban on the detachable plastic bottle cap – which could set a new bottling production standard for the rest of the nation. California also is reviewing how plastic straws are utilized by bars and restaurants. The plastic bottle cap legislation is aimed to lessen litter and encourage caps get recycled.  The law tentatively forces beverage businesses in California — the sixth-largest economy in the globe — to switch to caps tethered to bottles, much like on a canteen. Some bottled water companies such as Crystal Geyser have gotten ahead of the legislation, while Nestle boasts the eco-friendly solution on sports caps for some of its Arrowhead bottled water. Plastic bottle caps are the third-most common item of plastic that is found in beach cleanups by volunteers. But plastic bottle caps are just the start.

At the same time, California also is looking to impose limits on restaurants handing out plastic straws.  The legislation will require customers to specifically request plastic straws, rather than being given the straws by default. Violations of the law would result in criminal penalties, including potential jail time and big financial fines, but they have since been removed from the measure. To be clear, Assembly Bill 1884 wouldn’t ban plastic straws, but some local jurisdictions in the state have done so and require restaurants to use paper straws. Restaurants may actually save money with the bill, since restaurants will now save costs on passing out straws by default to every client that comes to a bar or restaurant.

This plastic bottle cap ban goes beyond the plastic bottle cap, it is a cultural shift seen around coastal states. Also, the city of Seattle has a ban on plastic straws and utensils from all restaurants that goes into effect in July. Several beach communities in Florida also have passed plastic straw bans.  More news about this culture shift is cataloged here at OKSTRAW™

New York City Straw Ban – Fight Against Plastic Straws

Local Council Debate on New York City Straw Ban

On Wednesday, May 23rd, three Democrats on New York city council—Rafael Espinal of Brooklyn, Helen Rosenthal of Manhattan, and Barry Grodenchik of Queens— offered an New York City straw ban, an ordinance banning businesses, hotels, and other eateries from handing out single-use plastic straws. Establishments could be eligible for a penalty of $100 for the initial violation, $200 for a repeat, and $400 for any violations thereafter. This is the first New York Plastic Straw Ban of it’s type.

Plastic straws are the 5th among the most common plastic waste found on beaches. This stubborn trash is also among the most difficult plastic to recycle.  However it is also the easiest to replace.  Plastic straw alternatives manufactured from, bamboo, metal or glass are available, yet scarce.  Then again, Americans can ditch the straw also. All the same, New York City straw bans, like this one, can set the tone for the rest of the nation.

The New York City Straw Ban, is not just a public effort, however.  In the city, more than 65  public-private partners have joined the campaign, including restaurateurs like Michael Jewell (Pier A), Tom Colicchio (Gramercy Tavern) and David Laris (EDEN Local), coupled with a variety of other establishments. All businesses, no matter how little or large, venerated or new, close or distant from the waterfront, can contribute to the cause for paper straws.

However there is some push back – As one chemical engineering professor put it to National Geographic, “Let’s say you recycle 100 percent in all of North America and Europe. You still would not make a dent on the plastics released into the oceans. If you want to do something about this, you have to go there, to these countries, and deal with the mismanaged waste.”  Straw bans in a couple coastal cities will do little to help to the environment. But they would do a good job of inconveniencing customers and ruining businesses for whom plastic straws are a crucial component of the drinks they service.

This is where OKSTRAW™ steps in, in providing a viable alternative that is planet safe and people friendly.  Check out more on our paper straw products here, in light of the New York City straw ban.

500 Million Straws a Day? Fact or Fiction?

Straw usage in the United States is rampantly being mis-represented by false statistics, the with often cited 500 Million Straws a day statistic being used as a basis to attack plastic straws. The source for this number is an unverified 2011 phone survey of three straw manufacturers conducted by 9-year-old Milo Cress.  That’s right, a 9 year old boy who called three straw manufacturers, and summoned the 500 million straws a day statistic.  That’s a pretty shaky foundation for an argument, but that hasn’t stopped media outlets, activist organizations, and government officials from using faulty figure to justify restrictions on the use of plastic straws. Since then it’s been truth by consensus regarding this 500 million straw statistic. 

Many outlets were either oblivious to the figure’s origins or mistakenly attributed it to the National Park Service. Learning its true source did spark some self-reflection from the Washington Post, which had cited the 500 million straw number in some of its reporting, and which ran a story that was somewhat skeptical of Cress’s findings.  Fact-checking website Snopes, also says: “No one has proven that [500 million straws a day] figure wrong, mind you; it’s just that Cress is its only source and no one has confirmed his research independently.”

The marketing analysis firm Technomics researches the food service industry, and has specifics on straw. Every two years, it performs a study of disposable food service packaging; its most recent effort, from 2016, looked at over 30 different categories of packaging. Those numbers do not include straws purchased for home consumption, but David Henkes, a senior principal at the firm, says the study captures about 95 percent of the straw market. Technomics found that Americans use 172 million straws each day. Given a growth rate of 2–3 percent per year in the straw market, Henkes estimates the figure today is somewhere around 175 million.  A much starker contrast to the 500 million straw statistic.  This is still an impressive number of straws – and to help business’s pivot from a plastic to paper alternative, OKSTRAW™ is here to help.