Are you one of the 500 million American's that suck every day? Have you vowed to #stopsucking? We’re talking about a hot topic today – the plastic straw. Shaming the straw has been a big focus for the last few years.
McDonald's announced that they are banning straws in their UK stores. Disney announced in 2018 that they would be eliminating single use plastic straws by the summer of 2019 – and it seems as though they have followed through. There are other companies like Red Lobster and Starbucks that are simply making the choice not to provide them unless requested. With anything plastic related, it tends to be the single use plastic that is widely criticized. Eco-cycle reported that we use so many that those single-use straws could fill 127 schools buses each day!
The Egyptians and Sumerians were the first to use these handy little tools to drink their beer. They were discovered by archaeologists who reported that they were used to separate the sediment in their beer, allowing them to sip just above the base of the glass. In China, many people used plant stalks as versions of straws, and in South America a straw called “bombilla” was created to filter tea leaves. Fast forward to 1888, and a man named Marvin C. Stone is credited with patenting the straw. The story goes that he was using a reed to sip his drink, and decided to experiment with strips of paper wrapped around a pencil. He later made them out of wax coated paper so they wouldn’t get soggy. Interestingly enough, the rationale for the diameter of a straw was decided based on the size of a lemon seed, being slightly narrower so that the seeds wouldn’t be sucked up.
But do they really suck? There are many people in our communities who NEED to use straws, like those who have medical conditions that don’t allow them to drink from a cup as we would, the elderly, even small children. Bendable and flexible plastic straws sometimes is the only solution to make these people drinking experience good.
The most promoted idea to replace plastic straws with reusable ones is a great suggestion, however is not always practical.
In other cases for most of us there are other options. There’s the obvious, just not using one. Or use reusable straws which come in many forms: bamboo, glass, stainless steel, paper, even edible straws! Just this November it was announced that the Polymers and Advanced Materials Group has created a biodegradable straw made of polyhydroxyalkanoate bioplastic.
Plastic straws are made of polypropylene (plastic #5) and are not easily recycled. You may know by now, but our recycling technology has the means to recycle virtually any type of plastic, without the need to sort or wash them. This includes plastic straws that are otherwise discarded into landfills. We have successfully molded plastics 3-7 into single post-consumer products, a feat that has not been accomplished on a large scale before. We have invested almost a decade into our research and the end recycled products are aesthetically pleasing, and a turning point in the circular economy of recycling.