The equivalent of five grocery bags of plastic trash for every foot of coastline spills into the oceans annually. On a remote island in the Caribbean Sea, discarded bottles, wrappers, and straws obstruct the surrounding clear blue waters and wash ashore to pile up on the beach, forming ever-growing landfills in the once-pristine sands.
Over eight million tons of plastic garbage are dumped into the Earth’s oceans every year. Assuming this current rate is maintained, it is expected that the ocean will consist of more seaborn plastic trash than fish by 2050, according to one study.
It is estimated that our seas now contain about 51 trillion microplastic particles – 500 times more than the number of stars in our galaxy.
This pollution is causing harm and endangering more than 600 vulnerable species worldwide amid what many are now regarding as the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth.
Last fall, California became the first state in the United States to ban plastic bags, joining a host of nations that already do so, including Kenya, China, Bangladesh, Rwanda, and Macedonia. France went even further than just banning plastic bags; it became the very 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. In Rhode Island, environmental activists are targeting the release of celebratory balloons into the skies, after almost 2,200 balloons were picked up on the shores of Aquidneck Island in the last four years.
Among the various kinds of plastic debris discarded into the ocean, the drinking straw is perhaps one of the most needless, superfluous waste items that could be substantially reduced with the least amount of effort or difficulty.
Once found mostly in 1930’s soda fountains, straws have become one of the most ubiquitous unnecessary products on the planet. While there are currently no existing global usage statistics, it is reported by the National Park Service that Americans alone use 500 million straws daily. Except for people with medical needs, straws are not required to consume beverages or water.
As the usage of straws proliferated, several campaigns emerged in order to oppose them, such as the London Soho-based Straw Wars, OneLessStraw (founded by siblings Olivia and Carter Ries when they were only 7 and 8 years old), Straws Suck (used by the worldwide Surfrider Foundation), and the Lonely Whale Foundation, co-founded by actor & filmmaker Adrian Grenier.
While other environmental campaign efforts are seeking to change laws or regulations, the anti-straw campaign is merely asking consumers to consider changing their habits and voluntarily cease their use of straws.