New Method Recycles ALL Plastic Waste

New Method Recycles ALL Plastic Waste

By now, you’re probably well aware that there’s too much plastic waste littering our planet. There’s plastic in the ocean, plastic in the air, and even plastic in the soil. Clearly we don’t need any new plastic, so we need to recycle what’s here.

A research group in Sweden just discovered a new method of recycling plastics. What’s even more exciting is that this method can recycle all plastics. While we at OkStraw Paper Straws encourage switching to biodegradable alternatives, we’re excited to hear about this new plastic recycling method.



Too Much Plastics Already

Plastic waste is hurting our planet, and in more ways than we ever thought. Not only do plastic straws kill marine animals, but now microplastics in soil hurt earthworms, endangering food supplies. Clearly, we don’t need any more new plastics littering our planet, so let’s manage what’s already here. 

Corporations like Unilever are swearing off virgin plastics, and are halving their plastic usage. Whereas companies like OkStraw Paper Straws offer biodegradable alternatives to plastic. But what about reusing plastic waste? New approaches for microplastics harvesting like Ocean Cleanup show promise, but we need a serious step up in recycling.

A Game-Changing Method

Solving the plastic recycling issue now shows real promise, thanks to Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. Professor Henrik Thunman and his research group experimented by heating up plastics, breaking them down into carbon atoms. Thunman’s group then captured these atoms, and rendered them back into new-quality plastic. 

The results from Chalmers research group are an eye opener. Not only does this method yield new plastic, but it also can recycle all forms of plastics. This means flimsy, non-recyclable items like plastic straws and bags can now be recycled using this method. While we at OkStraw Paper Straws believe people should transition away from plastic, these results show incredible promise.


A Win-Win Recycling Solution

This plastic recycling method shows great potential to fight plastic waste for two major reasons. Firstly, because this method yields new-quality plastics, so there’s even less reason to use virgin plastics. 

Secondly, since all plastics are recyclable, there’s a huge economic incentive for harvesting plastics, and against dumping them. As much as we detest plastics at OkStraw Paper Straws, this recycling method is one of the best ideas we’ve seen so far.

Responsible Plastic Recycling

Now make no mistake, we at OkStraw Paper Straws still believe people should switch from plastic to biodegradable alternatives. However, we do realize that the road to a plastic-free future is a long one that requires transitions. Therefore, we must do everything we can to recover plastic from the environment, and repurpose it responsibly. 

Responsible plastic repurposing to OkStraw Paper Straws means not making more plastic bags or plastic straws. Let’s only recycle plastic into items that aren’t single use, and switch to biodegradable alternatives for items that are. Switching to paper straws and paper foodware cuts down on plastic to recover, and energy to recycle it. So do your part, pass on those single-use plastics, and join the Cause for Paper Straws!

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Trump Curbs Climate Change Impact Research

The Trump administration just ordered a government agency to stop predicting the long term impacts of climate change. The order came from the US Geological Survey (USGS) director James Reilly. Reilly, a Trump-appointed former oil geologist, ordered scientific assessments to only make climate change predictions up until the year 2040. 

The Trump administration limiting the predictions of climate change to 2040 is a serious blow to saving our planet. At OkStraw Paper Straws, we believe this new prediction model, just like the Trump administration’s view on plastics, is dangerous and shortsighted. Fighting climate change is an uphill battle, and to win this battle, we must know its long term impacts.

Trump vs. Climate Change Scientists

Before this change, the USGS used 2100 as the year to study climate change impacts. By using 2100 in their computer models, scientists were better able to predict how climate change will progress. With the scope of their research shortened to 20 years, climate scientists can’t make accurate enough predictions, and can’t recommend the best strategies.

 

While we at OkStraw Paper Straws focus on cutting out plastic waste, we know climate change is humanity’s biggest existential threat. As earth’s temperature rises, more cities will become flooded, countries will be too hot to inhabit, and droughts will starve people. Because of these effects, climate change is a major economic, geographic and humanitarian threat to our planet. 

The Shortsighted Trump Administration

Climate change is also a major national security threat, according to the Pentagon, because it makes natural disasters worse. With the recent devastation brought on by Hurricane Dorian, the Trump administration should take this threat national security threat seriously. Unfortunately, the Trump administration is doing just the opposite. 

In fact, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised climate change for melting ice, and opening new trade route paths. Pompeo saying something says the Trump administration acknowledges that climate change is happening, and they’d rather chase a dollar now than plan for the future. 

At OkStraw Paper Straws, we acknowledge how absurd the Trump administration’s view on climate change is. Afterall, what good will a bigger economy and more trade routes do if climate change makes our planet unliveable? Unless President Trump has another planet ready for us to move to, we’d strongly suggest he wake and start taking climate change seriously.

Plastic Waste and Climate Change

So what does a company that sells paper straws have to do with limiting the impact of climate change? Far more than you would think, as a matter of fact. When we think of plastic waste, microplastics and so on, we mainly see it as a threat to marine animals and environmental safety. While all of this is true, plastic also causes climate change.

Producing plastics requires drilling for fossil fuels, which emits huge amounts of carbon. In fact, according to the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), the plastics industry produces up to 14 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. If we want to slow down climate change, then cutting out plastics will go a long way.

Paper Straws to Fight Climate Change

That’s where OkStraw Paper Straws comes in. Our mission is to break our addiction to single-use plastics, both healing our environment, and lowering our carbon footprint. Unlike some irresponsible and shortsighted companies, OkStraw neither demolishes virgin or tropical forests, nor practices clearcutting. Instead, we source our organic paper from ethical forestry practices, in compliance with the Sustainable Forestry Council (SFC).

 

At OkStraw Paper Straws, we can only hope the Trump administration wakes up to the serious impact of climate change. After all, saving our planet doesn’t end when the next president takes office. President Trump has the opportunity to leave a sustainable legacy, but he’s squandering it by curtailing climate scientists’ research. OkStraw might be a little paper straw company, but even we can do our part to fight climate change.

great pacific garbage patch okstraw paper straws

Great Pacific Garbage Patch Cleanup Progress

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

If you read the news about plastic waste, then you probably know about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Growing exponentially, the Garbage Patch poses an existential threat to the marine animals, and the people who rely on the ocean for sustenance. In order to fight this plastic waste menace, scientists and engineers set to work, and created Ocean Cleanup. 

 

While it shows great promise in plastic harvesting, Ocean Cleanup launched to a rocky start. Debuting on October, 2018 Ocean Cleanup experienced problems, but now it’s fixed, relaunched, and already showing promising results. This news thrills us at OkStraw Paper Straws, and we eagerly look forward to hearing Ocean Cleanup’s further successes. 




What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

Plastic waste is a huge threat to our planet. Not only does it contribute to climate change, but plastic waste also doesn’t biodegrade. Much of this plastic waste ends up in the oceans, where it kills marine animals who ingest it. In fact, so much plastic enters the ocean, scientists predict that plastic will outnumber fish by 2050. While we know this prediction all too well at OkStraw Paper Straws, it still scares the daylights out of us. 

 

So what is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s actually two giant circular currents of plastic waste that countries on the Pacific Ocean generate. Located between California and Hawaii, and between Hawaii and Japan, these two garbage masses mostly consist of plastic waste. With at least 1.8 million pieces of plastic, scientists predict the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly growing the day. Unless we use ecofriendly alternatives to plastic, this massive oceanic patch will grow out of control.

Enter The Ocean Cleanup

Based out of the Netherlands, The Ocean Cleanup’s star creation is a plastic harvesting device. Ocean Cleanup consists of bloating booms in the Garbage Patch, and fine screens attached that catch and contain plastic particles. After containing these plastics, cleanup crews can then take this waste to shore, and properly recycle them. 

First presented by CEO Boyan Slat at a TEDx conference in 2012, Ocean Cleanup underwent a lengthy development phase.The Ocean Cleanup device finally made its debut on October 2018, but had to go in for repairs this January. Relaunching on June 2019, Ocean Cleanup announced that the device is successfully harvesting plastic waste. 

In addition to harvesting visible plastic waste, Ocean Cleanup can now capture microplastic pieces as small as 1 millimeter. Microplastics are a big problem, because unlike biodegradable paper, they never dissolve, and continue polluting the environment. If anyone is serious about harvesting plastic waste, then they have to capture microplastics.

A Future Without Plastic Harvesting

While Ocean Cleanup’s plastic harvesting is fantastic news, we at OkStraw Paper Straws know it’s only half of the fight. If we truly want to end the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, then we need to stop generating plastic waste. Thanks to tons of ecofriendly plastic alternatives on the market, plastic’s days are finally numbered. 

 

Unlike plastic straws, OkStraw’s paper straws are fully biodegradable, requiring no special composting or recycling facilities. As longtime Pacific coastal residents, we at OkStraw witness the impact plastic waste has on our beaches and waterways. Because of this, we extend our most heartfelt gratitude to the people behind Ocean Cleanup for all they’ve done. There may still be tons of plastics in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but you’ll never find an OkStraw paper straw among them.

‘Mass extinction event’ that could wipe out a million species is already underway, says UN-backed report

'Mass extinction event' that could wipe out a million species is already underway, says UN-backed report

The report comes after a week-long meeting of experts from 50 countries in Paris. They  warn that a “mass extinction event” precipitated by human activities is already underway – the first such event since dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid 66 million years ago. Scientists say that in total, our planet has experienced five previous mass extinctions in the past half-billion years; this sixth wave would be the first caused by humans.

The report calls for urgent changes in government policies to limit environmental damage and climate change, but will also recommend that families or individuals sponsor beekeepers near their homes, for a cost of less than $100 a year. Bee populations are falling but they are essential to pollinate crops and food supplies depend on them.

Eating organic food is another way to preserve fast shrinking insect populations. The report says the reason your car windscreen is no longer covered in dead insects after a long drive is because pesticides have wiped out nearly 80 per cent of Europe’s winged insects over the past three decades. The decline has also reduced bird numbers by nearly a third, because there are no longer enough insects for them to eat. If insects disappear, vegetable and fruit crops will fail because they won’t be pollinated.

The report also renews calls to give up plastic straws. Americans alone use 500 million a day, but they end up in the sea and harm fish and marine animals.

The report also renews calls to give up plastic straws. Americans alone use 500 million a year, but they end up in the sea and harm fish and marine animals.

People can help save endangered species through adoption, it says; a chimpanzee, for example, can be sponsored for a donation to WWF of around $60 a year.

Eating less meat will also help to preserve forests, the experts say. Livestock and agriculture cause deforestation in many parts of the world because trees are cut down to make way for pasture or to grow crops. In the Amazon, some 63 per cent of deforestation stems from livestock farming. But neither should you turn to tofu — soya growing is also a major culprit in the destruction of the world’s largest rainforest.

The report warns that “half a million to a million species are projected to be threatened with extinction, many within decades.”

Robert Watson, chair of the group that drafted the report, said: “The loss of species, ecosystems and genetic diversity is already a global and generational threat to human well-being. Protecting the invaluable contributions of nature to people will be the defining challenge for decades to come.”

Species are being lost because of shrinking habitats, illegal hunting, climate change and pollution, campaigners say.

The report has been prepared over three years for a cost of more than £1.8 million by “150 leading international experts from 50 countries, balancing representation from the natural and social sciences, with additional contributions from a further 310 experts,” according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Known officially as the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, it draws on nearly 15,000 references including scientific papers and government data.

It is backed up by an open letter urging world leaders to act immediately, signed by nearly 600 scientists, business leaders, environmentalists and public figures, including Jane Goodall, the primatologist and conservationist, and Chris Packham, the naturalist and television presenter.

Biologists find trash in belly of stranded baby dolphin

Biologists find trash in belly of stranded baby dolphin

ByTHE ASSOCIATED PRESS

A rare deep-water dolphin stranded on a Florida beach and later euthanized had a stomach full of trash.

Biologists said they found two plastic bags and a shredded balloon during a necropsy of the young rough-toothed dolphin after it washed ashore in Fort Myers Beach earlier this week.

Biologists said they found two plastic bags and a shredded balloon

Animal experts said the rough-toothed dolphin was emaciated and in poor health. Florida Today reports such a young dolphin should have still been with its mother but somehow wound up far from her deep-water home. Biologists and bystanders worked to help the struggling animal, but wildlife official decided to euthanize the dolphin on-site.

Scientists are still trying to find a cause of death but the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the finding highlights the need to reduce single-use plastic and to not release balloons into the environment.

Sea Of Plastic Discovered In The Caribbean Stretches Miles And Is Choking Wildlife

There’s just no getting away from microplastic contamination

There’s just no getting away from microplastic contamination

And we still don’t know where a huge portion of our plastic waste even ends up.

Microplastics may be having a moment in the spotlight, as the public is increasingly aware of their presence in the environment around us. But as more evidence of their presence comes to light, it’s becoming clearer that we don’t yet have a handle on how big or bad the problem is. A huge amount of small plastic particles end up in the sea, but recent research has also found them in lakes and mountain river floodplains, and even as airborne pollution in megacities.

A new paper in Nature Geoscience reports finding microplastics in a region that should be pristine: the French Pyrenees Mountains. The researchers estimated that the particles could have traveled from as far as 95km away, but they suggest that it could be possible for microplastics to travel even farther on the wind—meaning that even places relatively untouched by humans are now being polluted by our plastics.

Every year, millions of tonnes of plastic are produced. In 2016, this figure was estimated to be around 335 million tonnes. We have no idea where most of this ends up. 

The mystery of the disappearing plastic

Every year, millions of tonnes of plastic are produced. In 2016, this figure was estimated to be around 335 million tonnes. We have no idea where most of this ends up. The amounts that are recovered in recycling plants and landfill don’t match the amount being produced. Some of it stays in use, sometimes for decades, which explains part of the discrepancy. An estimated 10 percent ends up in the oceans. Although these numbers could change with further research, there’s still a gap.

Wherever that plastic is ending up, we know that it’s breaking down over time, disintegrating into micro particles less than 5mm in size, and some even breakdown to the nanoscale at less than one micrometer. (For context, the micrometer is a unit that’s often used to discuss bacteria and cells—the human sperm head is around 5 micrometers in length.) The effect that these particles will have on a global scale as they continue to accumulate is not even remotely understood.

A huge part of getting a handle on the consequences is just understanding where all the plastic ends up. The Pyrenees are an ideal place to assess how far it might travel, as they’re sparsely populated, difficult to get to, and have no industrial activity or large-scale farming. So for five months, a team of researchers gathered samples from the Bernadouze meteorological station, 6km (~3.7 miles) away from the closest village. The samples were from “atmospheric fallout”—anything falling from the sky, either wet or dry, ranging from dust to rain and snow.

The problem with microplastics being (potentially) everywhere is that contamination becomes a concern. Plastic fibers from clothing, containers, and equipment could all hypothetically make their way into the sample. To guard against this, the researchers took precautions like wearing cotton clothing as they approached the sample collection devices, approaching from downwind, and storing everything in glass. They also collected and processed “blank” samples taken from closed containers left at the field site to double-check that any plastics found in the real samples had really made their way there through the atmosphere.

The plastics are blowin’ in the wind

Microplastics were found in every sample the researchers gathered—on average, 365 particles per square meter were deposited every day. The most common kind of plastic was polystyrene, followed by polyethylene (the kind of plastic used in plastic bags and single-use packaging).

The number of particles being deposited correlated strongly with wind speeds, with more particles being found following higher winds. Precipitation—both wind and snow—were also strongly linked. The researchers looked at the wind speeds and directions that had been recorded throughout the study, and they used this to calculate how far particles of the sizes they found could have been transported, estimating that the plastics could have come from nearly 100km away.

That’s a “highly simplified assessment,” the team notes—it doesn’t take into account all the different atmospheric variables that could change the numbers. With evidence that dust particles (which are well within the range of sizes of plastic particles) can travel up to 3,500km (~2,175 miles), it’s possible they could come from even farther away.

Research that analyzes the size of the plastic particles it finds shows that there’s a trend toward finer particles over time. As particles get smaller, their ability to be dispersed far and wide increases. Microplastics have now been found everywhere from drinking water to city air, and there’s evidence of plastic particles in fish liver, suggesting that they could pass through organ systems. All of this makes it clear that tiny, invisible plastic dust is becoming ubiquitous on our planet. We’re only just starting to understand what the effects of that will be.

Paper Straws vs. Compostable Plastic Straws (PLA) – Which are better for the environment?

Paper Straws vs. Compostable Plastic Straws (PLA)

Which are better for the environment to use?

Single-use plastics are on the way out – what is the best replacement when it comes to straws?

The main reason cited for eliminating plastic straws is their negative impact on our oceans and marine wildlife. Plastic in the ocean is a huge problem — look no further than trash island, or the viral video of a turtle suffering as a result of ocean pollution, to understand that. The call to eliminate single-use plastic straws is here, how will your restaurant, bar, or café move forward?

Why are straws a big target? The problem is their size. They are small and inconspicuous. So much so that people often forget they are plastic and do not recycle them.

Straws that do get recycled often don’t make it through the mechanical recycling sorter because they are so small and lightweight. So they contaminate recycling loads or get disposed of as garbage.

It is estimated that the average person uses 1.6 straws per day. That means that if 25,000 people stop using straws, we would eliminate 5,000,000 straws and prevent them from entering oceans and harming wildlife.

So, knowing that most straws, recycled or not, are likely to end up in our oceans, and knowing the amount of straws being used every day, individuals cutting back on use can make a difference.

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Alternatives to Plastic Straws
Some states, like California, that have recently introduced straw provisions have thought about these situations and instead of an all-out ban, they are proposing only having them available on request.

And business owners who live in places with bans will also need to adapt to providing more sustainable options for their customers (while making sure that there are options for all their customers).

The original draw of plastic was how cheap it is to produce products on a mass scale. With the new bans, businesses that once used cheap plastic straws are now having to adjust financially to the pressure from their customers and the world to provide alternatives.

Boba Tea & Bubble Tea

Diagonal-cut or flat-bottom paper straws made specifically for Boba Tea & Bubble Tea.

PLA "Compostable" Plastic Straws

Compostable straws
The straw option you’ll likely start seeing the most in restaurants and from major food corporations is compostable straws that look and feel similar to the plastic straws you’re used to.

It is important to note that emerging research suggests that compostable plastic straw alternatives are not as ecofriendly as we thought. This is mainly chalked up to the fact that compostable straws do not biodegrade any quicker than traditional plastic straws, unless they are disposed of in a commercial composter.

Compostable straws do not biodegrade any quicker than traditional plastic straws

OkStraw Polka Dots Paper Straws

Paper straws, such as all OkStraw products, decompose in 45–90 days and provide an ecofriendly alternative to plastic straws

Paper straws
Before there were plastic straws, there were paper straws. In fact, Marvin Stone created the very first straw by wrapping pieces of paper around a tube and gluing the pieces together. Paper straws, such as all OkStraw products, decompose in 45–90 days and provide an ecofriendly alternative to plastic straws.

Another draw of paper straws is that companies have started printing different designs on the straws to create more variety and themes for consumers.

So what is the best option for your business and the environment? 

While we are obviously biased here at OkStraw, we think the compostability of our premium strength paper straws make them the ideal choice for your restaurant, bar, or cafe. The fact that “compostable” plastic straws (PLA) are likely to end up in the same place as plastic straws and cannot actually decompose makes the decision easy. 

Join the cause for paper straws!

Learn more about OkStraw's Sustainability certifications.

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. 

 

StarBucks Straw Ban – Corporate Sustainability

Starbucks Straw Ban, Sucks the Fun Out of Plastic Straws

The Starbucks straw ban is making headlines right now.  Faced with a growing backlash over its effect on the environment, Starbucks is about to stop using disposable plastic straws by 2020.  This will erase more than one billion straws a year from consumption.   Talk about a big plastic footprint – for one company!  For smaller coffee shops, OKSTRAW™ is here to help supply a paper alternative that is planet friendly and people safe. Check out our on-hand inventory here. 

Although plastic straws are made from polypropylene, a recyclable plastic, most recyclers won’t accept them. Plastic straws are pretty small and lightweight, so when they’re going through the mechanical sorter, they’re often lost or diverted.  That means plastic straws get tossed in the garbage, ending up in landfills and polluting the ocean.  Did you know it takes 200 years for polypropylene plastic straws to break down under normal environmental conditions?  Plastic straws suck the health right out of marine habitats and coastlines when not recycled.

Instead, Starbucks’s 28,000 worldwide stores will use recyclable, strawless lids on most of its iced drinks.  And while they are making concessions on most of their concessions – The Frappuccino is the one exception.  While the Starbucks straw ban will eliminate plastic straws – they will still use straws made from either paper or recyclable plastic. The plastic straw, a once ubiquitous accessory for frosty summer drinks and sugary sodas, has been falling out of favor in recent years, faced with a growing backlash over its effect on the environment.

It is difficult to know how many straws or straw particles end up in the world’s waterways and oceans, but plastic straws are one of the most common items found on beaches, according to the Ocean Conservancy, whose volunteers have picked up more than 9 million straws and stirrers from beaches and waterways. The Starbuck’s straw ban aims to curb this plastic consumption.