That is the Last Straw – why giving up the use of straws is good for you – and the Planet

By: Cris Merz

You may have seen a few campaigns on social media recently about major corporations like Bacardi pledging to eliminate straws from all company functions as well as campaigns from numerous groups like #stopsucking.  The initiatives behind these campaigns are to get people to eliminate the use of straws in their daily routine.  Why?

It’s bad. Bad for the environment, but even worse for you.

Bad for me?  How?

Let’s cover how straws impact you.  Unfortunately, in order to make a change, many people want to know how they are directly affected so this is exactly what we will do in the following segment.

  1. Duck face ain’t cool anymore- and neither is smoking.  The effects of sucking on a straw 3,369 times per year aren’t good for you.  Do you want to know where we got the math for that?  How ‘bout; 500 million straws per day * 365 days / 325 million Americans * 6 sips per 20oz, the typical medium-sized fountain drink = how many times you are sucking on plastic.

But seriously, you have a legitimate reason to be concerned. Celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau told Marie Claire. “When drinking out of a straw, the movement of the mouth area that you have to make will encourage the breakdown of collagen and elasticity more quickly, causing unnecessary wrinkles and lines.” So ditch the straw and avoid those wrinkles around your mouth at 35.

  1. They say Mona Lisa didn’t smile because her teeth were rather nasty – or was that George Washington?  No matter, if you are a fan of talking selfies showing off your pearly whites, well, better invest in teeth whitener toothpaste in your future or fake teeth!

Drinking out of a straw is like power washing your teeth – with coffee or soda or sugar.  You are literally blasting all the coating that protects your teeth.  Keep in mind, your body does not produce tooth enamel and the damage you do to your body is actually permanent.

  1. “Beans, beans are good for your heart…”  Can you finish the song that was (to me) a top-ten tune during my childhood?  Look, drinking out of a straw can make you gassy.  No one wants to be farting while on a romantic date at the movies.  Not to mention, gas in your intestines can be very uncomfortable.

Because you swallow air when you drink out of a straw, the chances of having that air go through your digestive system are very high.  Besides, feeling bloaty and abdominal cramps, it can cause minor digestive issues as well.  Not to mention, passing gas, which is the end result to alleviate the symptoms mentioned above, isn’t really an attractive thing unless you’re a grandfather asking their 4-year-old grandkid to pull their finger.

But enough about you.

How about a little history?

Let’s look at the big picture here.

When it comes to the environment, straws really, really suck…excuse the pun.  Let’s look at some figures, data, and statistics.

  • The United States consumes 500 million disposable straws every day.  Yet the US population is only 320 million so how does this math work?  Great question.  How often do you get two straws in your cocktail?  When you get a refill, do you get fresh new straws?  Or did the bartender keep the old ones?  How often do you see people grabbing more straws that they need at an establishment?  Now imagine all the straws at a fast food joint that probably never even gets used…
  • Plastic straws don’t get recycled often.  Most are made from Polypropylene (plastic #5) which is low quality plastic that is a byproduct of petroleum, a fossil fuel that requires tons of energy and natural resources to extract and refine – but we will get back to this shortly. And though it is recycled in most forms, the biggest barrier to straw recycling is shape and size. As plastic travels down conveyor belts while being sorted at the recycling station, small items like straws fall through the cracks and end up being sent to the landfill which is about 22-43% of plastics. Here is another problem, recycled or not – EVERY piece of plastic ever made still exists today.
  • Eight million tons of plastic in our oceans. Plastic constitutes 90% of all trash floating in our oceans.  The lifespan of a straw as far as actual use is between 10 and 20 minutes.  That is all. However, it would take about 10,000 years for the chemical breakdown of a straw to occur naturally.   National Geographic tells us that eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean every year creating garbage patches…small floating islands of trash.  This attracts the attention of turtles, birds and other marine creatures that feed of the ocean.  44% percent of all seabird species and 22% of all cetaceans have ingested plastic. Plastic now outnumbers algae 6-to-1 by volume.

Energy to make a straw.

Remember when we mentioned the chemical components of plastic and how much effort it took to actually make them?  So, there’s a problem with making more plastic straws. Let’s take a look at all the energy used, spent and wasted to make plastic straws.  A demand for plastic straws means more plastic must be manufactured which means that we need more oil and gas extraction to make it and more electricity to power the plastic production. But it doesn’t end there.  Once the plastic is made at the plastic processing centers, more fuel is needed to transport the materials from the plastic manufacturers to the straw makers, who in turn use more electricity to generate power for the straw making machines.  Energy and gas are now needed to deliver the final product to vendors who then sell them to the restaurants, bars, wholesale clubs that then sell them to you; the consumer of the straw for the next 20 minutes. The amount of carbon emissions and pollution generated to simply provide you with a tube for you to suck out liquid is absolutely ridiculous.

What can I do?

Pledge to eliminate straws from your life.  Have a straw free meal at a restaurant.  Ask your bartender to not give you those little red straws in your cocktail.  Be proactive – once that straw is in your drink – you can’t send it back.

If you work at a bar or restaurant, ask the person if they want a straw before serving them one.

UGH…but I like straws.  My kids like straws.

Get your reusable straws.  You can find them in bamboo, glass and stainless steel.  Here are some ideas we shared from

Stainless Steel Drinking Straws – These straws fit in a tall glass or in a reusable tumbler. They won’t break, and they come with thin bristle brushes so it’s easy to keep them clean.

Stainless Steel Smoothie Straws – These are wider straws for smoothies and shakes.

Stainless Steel Sippy Cups – These cups come with or without their own straws.

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