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How many plastic straws do we use each year?
Estimates of how many single-use plastic straws we go through each day, week or year varies wildly.
You may have heard the viral ‘500 million per day’ statistic that came out of the U.S. You should also know that it has since come to light that said estimate was made by a 9 year old boy researching for a school project…
But, whatever the case, many estimates have since been made by more, how can we say... ‘qualified’ sources, and they actually come surprisingly close.
So, while there are no official statistics on this (no matter what the click-bait news sources say), if our friends from the U.S. went through even half of that per day, and they make up less than 5% of the world’s population – a conservative estimate would put global daily use of single-use plastic straws at 1 billion per day. That’s 365 billion every. single. year.
While we do acknowledge that the U.S. might consume straws at a higher per capita rate than many countries due to the huge popularity of fast-food chains – there’s no denying that this estimate is probably nowhere near the likely trillions of plastic straws that are actually used each year.
That’s because it goes far beyond the common scapegoat that is the fast-food industry – disposable straws are everywhere! From kids parties, to cafes and bars, to sporting games and music festivals, to the humble tetra pack juice that sits innocently in school lunchboxes everywhere.
Why are plastic straws a problem?
To put it simply – the fact they are plastic is the problem in itself.
A great way to try and understand just how bad this is, is to cast your mind back to the very first disposable plastic straw you ever used as a kid. Perhaps it was part of your first McDonalds happy meal, maybe it was in a funky 90s juice box, or in that cup of Cottee’s cordial that sent you reeling on a sugar high for days to come.
While you probably can’t remember the exact straw you had 20, 30 or 40 years ago – the truth is that the planet certainly does. In fact, you could literally go out and find that very straw today if you wanted to (not recommended to try this at home, but we are genuinely thinking of making the voyage one day, just to prove a point!).
The reason is; it’s still here. Every single plastic straw you use in your lifetime will remain on the planet for as long as you, your children, and your grandchildren live.. and then for around 400 years after that.
Plastic pretty much doesn’t degrade at all, and what makes it worse for straws is that they’re too small and risk jamming most commercial recycling machines, so are left in landfill to sit forever. And while that may sound bad – it’s actually the best case scenario, as the most common alternative is to end up on our beaches. The impacts that plastic litter is having on our marine life is simply devastating, and you’ve no doubt seen the heartbreaking viral images of the sea turtle with a plastic straw in its nose, or the sea horse wielding a cotton bud in its tail.
So how can we reduce plastic straw usage?
As word of single-use plastic straw bans spread around the world (which makes us excited beyond belief!), more people are reaching for reusable straws than ever before.
The best way to make an impact as an individual is undoubtedly to switch to reusable straws.
Whether you opt for bamboo straws, metal straws, glass straws, silicone straws, or a creative contraption of your own – you’re looking at saving potentially hundreds of pieces of plastic from your own footprint each and every year.
And the best bit? It’s not just your own usage that will be reduced by switching to the reusable straw. We can almost guarantee that your example will have a domino effect.
We find that every time we bring out our bamboo straws at a café, bar, or even just at work, it starts a conversation with curious folk who are keen to make the change. More often than not, they hadn’t even consciously considered the plastic waste that straws generate, and it doesn’t take much for them to want to change.
If you’re keen to make the change and don’t know where to start – have a look at our organic, biodegradable range of straws here.
Stay tuned for more information on how cafés and bars can move away from disposable plastic straws – we know it can be hard to move to reusables and we’re more than happy to provide any advice you need in making the switch for good. Contact us for more info.