A few days ago I wrote a piece on why the Plastic Straw Ban angered me as a mother raising a child with a disability.
The response to this piece is a mix – I either hate the environment, or I am a champion for individuals with disabilities.
Either way, my point in the piece was there are other ways to reduce our consumption of plastic straws without banning the straws outright.
The debate that I witnessed on Social Media and my article prompted me to consider more options for what we can do to be responsible consumers.
First, my goal in the piece was not to be a turtle and environment hating monger, but it was to provide insight about how these straws are valuable for people with disabilities.
We can still be kind to the environment without harming people that depend on the straws to meet fundamental human needs.
Alternatives for straws are available, but many of these straws are not positionable, dissolve and pose choking threats, respond to heat and cold, and are cost prohibitive for individuals that live on fixed incomes.
Numerous people recommended plant-based flex straws as an alternative to plastic straws.
PLA and bio-plastics can only biodegrade in an environment with no oxygen and temperatures that exceed 140 degrees for ten days. Few places in the world would meet this requirement.
After it biodegrades, it still leaves a harmful residue of microparticles that pollute the environment. These particles affect life at the bottom of the food chain.
These straws will not compost in home or backyard systems. They are not marine bio-degradable.
However, these straws are the same as plastic straws in their damage to the environment.
At this time affordable and practical options don’t exist, and we can’t ban plastic straws all together.
Plastic straws are absolutely an issue in the ocean. I also agree that our planet’s health is of significant importance.
I’m a mom and I want the planet around for when my son grows older.
However, by analyzing the consumption of plastic and the biggest impact it has on the environment there is a bigger enemy.
The Plastic Water Bottle.
Plastic water bottles are the number one plastic item in our planet’s oceans.
More alarming than the litter is the amount of energy we use to make the bottles.
According to Ban The Bottle, we use 17 million barrels of oil annually to meet the demands of America’s consumption of bottled water.
The amount of oil used to make these bottles could fuel more than 1.3 million cars annually.
We can power more than 190,000 homes with the same energy we use to bottle water.
According to Forbes, we will purchase 1 million bottles of water per minute around the globe.
91% of these bottles end up in landfills.
Forbes also estimates that this consumption of water bottles will mean by 2050 there will be more weight of plastic in the ocean than fish.
There is no bigger threat to our fish and aquatic wildlife than the plastic bottle.
Interestingly, many people purchase bottled water under the assumption that the water is higher in quality than tap water.
However, according to Ban the Bottle, 24% of bottled water is distributed by Pepsi’s Aquafina and Coke’s Dasani.
Both of these brands are tap water.
Another misconception about bottled water is that it is safer for consumption than tap water.
Dr. Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the National Resource Defense Council, told the New York Times that there is no reason to believe bottled water is safer than municipal tap water.
In fact, public drinking water is much more stringently monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency than bottled water is by the Food and Drug Administration.
Data suggests the water we consume from bottled water is the same as what we get from the tap.
Tap water we drink has more regulations than bottled water.
There are financial benefits to decreasing your dependence on bottled water.
According to Ban the Bottle, the recommended consumption of 8 glasses of water a day from the tap would cost you $.49 a year.
Conversely, if you purchase that same amount in the bottled water, you will spend $1400 a year on the water.
In summary, plastic water bottles are the number one plastic polluter to our ocean and landfills.
The water you get in these bottles is no better than what we get from tap water.
Plastic Bottled water is more expensive than using tap water.
The time we use to “Ban the Straw” is better spent by finding safe alternatives.
Clearly, in some parts of the world, the water supply is poor and bottled water may be the most reliable option.
We must work to better educate people about the importance of recycling plastic.
The Conversation points out that increasing foreign aid from developed countries to the developing world could help these countries manage the plastic waste that is ravaging their countries.
What can you do?
- Don’t use a plastic straw if you don’t need one
- If you use a plastic straw, wash the straw and reuse multiple time
- Find safe alternatives for reuseable straws
- Reduce your consumption of Bottled water
- Recycle the water bottle after consumption
- Purchase a reusable BPA free water bottle and carry water with you
- Purchase a water filter for your tap if you are concerned about water quality
We are all responsible for our use of plastic.
Change is possible by being smarter in our consumption, using alternatives to plastic, and recycling the plastic we use.
As a society, we must be able to provide affordable alternatives for populations that rely on plastic.
Plastic straws are contributing to our plastic pollution.
However, our biggest enemy to the environment is the plastic bottled water.
Put down the plastic water bottle.
Go to the cupboard grab a cup, and get your water from the tap.