The truth is that straws are just the tip of the trash heap when it comes to plastic waste.
…In 2015, plastic consumption worldwide totaled 300 million metric tonnes. That essentially means that for each one of the world’s 7.6 billion humans, we’re making 88 pounds of plastic a year. The packaging industry is still growing, according to Euromonitor, with flexible plastics leading the pack.
…People in the US now spend more money eating out than eating in — often with food coming in plastic or throw-away containers.
It’s not just food. Most plastic turns to trash after a single use. If you think you’re doing Mother Earth a solid by slinging your used plastics into the recycling, think again. More than 79% of all plastic waste ends up in landfills, or gets stuck in the natural world , regardless of which sorting bin you put it in. Another 12% gets burned up in incinerators, adding to particulate matter to the atmosphere. Only a remaining 9% is actually recycled, according to a 2017 report published in Science Advances.
…Some straws drift out to sea, becoming just one more piece of the 79 thousand-ton colossal floating iceberg of trash called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Scientists who’ve studied the patch, a trash heap wider than two whole Texases that bobs somewhere between Hawaii and California, have discovered it’s essentially a watery pit of litter and illegal dumps that’s trapped in the ocean currents, and it is basically all plastic. A 2018 report based on aerial and water surveys of the patch found that “more than 99.9%” of it is plastic, and it’s not just straws in there. Plastic objects identified in the patch included containers, bottles, lids, bottle caps, packaging straps, ropes, and fishing nets.
…What it really comes down to is living with less plastic, and changing old behaviors. Other countries are aggressively regulating plastics already. Morocco, once a land laden with fields full of drifting plastic bags, banned the production, sale, and import of plastic bags completely in 2016 . Rwanda was one of the first places in the world to ban plastic bags , in 2008, and in the US, both California and Hawaii followed suit, while other states (like Michigan) rose up against the idea of ever weaning themselves off plastics and banned bans. India says all single-use plastic will be banned there by 2022. In England, Queen Elizabeth now insists that no plastic straws or bottles appear on the royal estates.