By Priscilla Ortega
Plastic accumulating in our oceans and on our beaches has become a global crisis. Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences that make up 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces.
For more than 50 years, global production and consumption of plastics have continued to rise. An estimated 299 million tons of plastics were produced in 2013, representing a 4 percent increase from 2012 and confirming an upward trend over the past years. A simple walk on any beach, anywhere, and plastic waste litters the ground. Tons of plastic debris are discarded every year, everywhere, polluting lands, rivers, coasts, beaches, and oceans. At current rates, plastic is expected to outweigh all of the fish in the sea by 2050.
This major plastic problem has made certain states realize that using plastic goods may not be the best thing for the environment. On January 1, 2019, California banned the use of plastic straws. This ban allows restaurants to give out single-use straws only upon the request of customers. This law applies to full-service dining establishments but exempts fast-food restaurants, coffee shops, delis, or restaurants serving takeout. With this move, California became the first state in the nation to restrict the use of plastic straws in restaurants. Several cities in California, including Malibu and San Francisco, have gone a step further by passing bans against the use of plastic straws as well as other single-use items, including plastic utensils. Plastic straw manufacturers have become enemies with big companies such as Starbucks as they hope to phase out plastic straws by 2020 in favor of nitro lids and compostable straws.
With this ban in effect, more people have turned to using reusable straws and water bottles. In fact, reusable water bottles have become much more of a trend in the last couple of months. It’s likely that almost everyone you know owns at least one reusable bottle, if not a few.
Reusable water bottle brands such as Hydro Flask have become incredibly popular with adults and teenagers, resulting in a significant upwards trend in their use. Owning a reusable water bottle is potentially the healthiest fashion statement that one could make while also helping the environment.
Many people have also resorted to purchasing reusable straws to keep at home and take with them on the go. Plastic straws have quickly become a symbol of the world’s unnecessary reliance on plastic. Even more, they have become a symbol of plastic’s horrific effects on the environment. Reusable straws are much better than plastic because, they are eco-friendly, they fill less waste in landfills, and overall makes your life easier by not having to even think about using plastic straws.
The thing about single-use plastic is it is actually really inconvenient for our health, for the health of the ocean, and for the health of the ocean wildlife. However, thit problem won’t be fixed by just forgoing a straw, but environmentalists say letting go of a single piece of plastic could be a first step in a much-needed larger behavior change.