It’s a movement, in the headlines everywhere we see a ban on the plastic straw, known as the world’s most wasteful commodity, it’s become a symbol of our single-use throwaway plastic-loving society.
Of all the plastic things, why pick on straws? According to The National Park Services, it is estimated that Americans use 500 million “drinking straws” a day.
We have a plastics problem.
Unlike climate change, you can’t deny the plastic crisis — because it’s big. In fact, floating halfway between Hawaii and California lies the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating dump of our single-use shame that spans 600,000 square miles — twice the size of Texas. Sadly the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is only one, the largest of five garbage collections in the ocean.
This is massive.
Plastic is everywhere, recently in a National Geographic article, (We Made Plastic. We Depend on it. Now We’re Drowning in it. June 2018) scientists wondered why the amount of plastics in our oceans wasn’t exactly adding up. Overall, the production of plastics has increased over time, and although the amount of plastic found out drifting on the ocean and washing up on our shores was bad, mathematically, it should have been much worse. So where has all the plastic gone?
The answer to that equation is the scary part — “Microplastics.” They found that not only was plastic degrading and disintegrating from the ocean waters and the heat of the sun but tiny sea creatures were shredding it into tiny particles, chewing and spitting it out, ingesting it and secreting it as waste back into the ocean. Plastics are being consumed by wildlife — seabirds, whales and the stuff we enjoy as our seafood dinners, we’re ingesting the plastics that they’ve consumed.
According to the journal Scientific Reports, researchers said:
“The widespread distribution of microplastics in aquatic bodies has subsequently contaminated a diverse range of aquatic biota, including those sold for human consumption such as shellfish and mussels. Therefore, seafood products could be a major route of human exposure to microplastics.”
“Microplastics were suggested to exert their harmful effects by providing a medium to facilitate the transport of other toxic compounds such as heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants to the body of organisms. Upon ingestion, these chemicals may be released and cause toxicity.”
Plastic was once thought of as a miracle material. It hit all the buttons, easy to manufacture, inexpensive, strong, and lightweight making it perfect packaging. Unfortunately, more than 40 percent of plastics are used just once, and the waste is overwhelming us.
Non-biodegradable synthetic polymers, the foundation of packaging materials have staying power. Look how long these simple items take to break down:
- Plastic bag – 10-20 years
- Foamed plastic cup 20-30 years
- Plastic beverage bottles 450 years!
What We Can Do — Biodegradable Polymers
Using biodegradable polymers in our containers can go along way in improving our growing plastic problem. The materials are both bio-based and fossil-based. The biodegradability depends on their structure, not their origin. They’re made to decompose into natural elements such as such as gases (CO2, N2), water, biomass, and inorganic salts.
Bio-based materials can be made from algae or plants, cellulose, hemicellulose, starch, inulin, pectin, chitin and chitosan or proteins, poly(amino acid)s, or lignin. A second group would include lactic acid and the corresponding polymer, PLA—some polyurethanes and polyesters, are examples of biodegradable fossil-based materials.
Replacing the synthetic stuff for biodegradable polymers can be done at a low cost making it a win-win for both the environment and the economy.
Tackling the Problem of Single-Use Plastics — Who’s Stepping Up?
Here are the cities and states that are tackling the issue:
- New York City, Hawaii, and California all have pending straw ban legislation.
- California: Malibu and Berkeley have already banned plastic straws. Following suit are Alameda, Carmel, San Luis Obispo, Davis, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Oakland, Richmond, and Berkeley
- Washington—Seattle, and Edmonds: As of July 2018 is prohibiting vendors from giving their customers plastic utensils or straws unless they’re made from compostable paper or plastic.
- Vancouver: Plastic straws and foam containers banned as of June 1, 2019 as part of Canada’s Zero Waste 2040 strategy.
- New Jersey: Monmouth Beach—Banned plastic straws, bags, and food containers was put into effect on June 1.
- Florida: Miami Beach and Fort Myers already have banned plastic straws.
According to Money Magazine, these are businesses that are committed to banning the plastic straw:
- Starbucks—Aims to rid straws by 2020 switching to compostable straws.
- McDonald’s—Set a goal of 100 percent of guest packaging—cups, straws, boxes, to renewable or recycled sources by 2025.
- Hilton— Removing plastic straws from all of its 650 hotels by the end of 2018.
- Sixty Hotels—In the process of removing all plastic straws.
- Four Seasons will eliminate plastic straws from all locations by the end of 2018
- Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants
- Edition Hotels
- Revival Food Hall
- Inday—Eliminated straws from their 14 restaurants.
- DMK Restaurants
- Ted’s Montana Grill—Uses only paper straws in its 45 locations.
- Luke’s Lobster
- Eataly—removing plastic straws from all of its locations by July 31
- Lettuce Entertain You restaurants—Will remove all plastic straws from 150 locations beginning in the fall of 2018.
- Fox Restaurant Concepts—Straws removed from all 50 locations with eco-friendly alternatives available upon request.
- Chicago White Sox
- America Airlines
- Alaska Airlines
- Bon Appétit restaurants
- SeaWorld Entertainment
- Royal Caribbean—Goal to be plastic straw free by the end of 2018.
- Bacardi—Goal to eliminate single-use plastic straws from their events.
- Intelligentsia Coffee—Banned plastic straws as of July 15.
- Joe Coffee’s will switch to 100% compostable straws made from cornstarch by July in all 18 branches.
Green Isn’t Just Our Name — It’s Our Motto — Design is in Our Nature, and Part of Everything We Do!
Here at Green Group Studio, we are committed to being greener by adopting our own in-house policies that include recycling, paper reduction through technology like electronic billing and E-Newsletters. Other ways we go about greening our world is by using sustainable printing practices, eco-lighting and using energy efficient equipment. (See more about that here! /what-makes-us-green.html )
We live the Green Life by participating in team building activities that are environmentally educational. We donate to support various charities that support the environment and nonprofits that focus on the needs of children.
And as like often attracts like, many of our clients are earth-friendly, responsible companies that opt for many of the same practices because at GGS, we understand that everything is connected and the green effort each person takes every day can have a substantial and positive impact on our planet.
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