We Suck.

Via Lynn Hasselberger
on Jan 18, 2011
get elephant's newsletter

When we drink from plastic straws, that is.

Photo courtesy flickr.com | mangobeat

Unless you have a health issue that prevents you from drinking directly from a glass, using a straw is superfluous. If you’re concerned about aging, sucking on a straw–like smoking–can cause wrinkles around the lips. If you’re concerned about the environment, many straws are made from polypropylene (#5)—a petroleum bi-product. And since they’re not stamped with the #5 plastic symbol, they’re not recyclable.*

Off to our landfills straws go. Or waterways and, eventually, our oceans where large pockets of plastic soups threaten the food chain. (A friend who cleans up beaches on a regular basis claims straws are the second most frequent item found).

Lots more than 60 million straws a day thrown away.

While I had a difficult time locating stats on plastic straw consumption and waste, I think I can safely deduce from McDonald’s website that, since they serve 60 million people globally per day, at least that many straws are used and thrown out each day. That doesn’t account for other fast food chains, restaurants, coffee joints or families that purchase straws for home use. Plastic straw consumption and waste could be epic.

If you need a straw, why not a glass one?

GlassDharma straws are sturdy, fun and even elegant. Made in the U.S.A. from a heavy duty glass (borosilicate, the same glass used for coffee pots), these straws even has a lifetime guarantee against breakage (but don’t throw it against a wall-it can and, with force, will break). They’re even dishwasher safe. You can also get an eco-friendly case so you can take it wherever you go.

Free shipping at myEARTH360.com when you enter ELEPHANT!

What else you can do.

Certainly, conscious living is not always perfect and once in a while we might get a complimentary plastic straw in our drink when we’re out. Can’t exactly send it back. The damage is done. If you can remember to, request a straw-free meal before you sit down or carry out.

If you know any jaw-dropping plastic straw facts, please share them here!

More about #5 plastic recycling.

Communities that accept #5s are generally forced (by poor economics) into bundling them with other plastics to form a mixed plastic bale. This mixed plastic bale is of low value and is often shipped overseas to an unknown end of life. Although my waste management provider accepts #5 plastic (only if it has the #5 stamp), they specifically do not accept plastic straws and were unable to not give me a reason why. Check with your waste management provider. But don’t rely on the first answer being correct!

Preserve’s gimme 5 recycling program, located in most Whole Foods stores, accepts #5’s, but not plastic straws. Preserve’s Li Chen says:

We would love to be able to recycle plastic straws but if it is not specifically marked #5 we can’t accept it in the program. Plastic straws are not always #5 plastic and plastics that are not marked as #5 may contaminate our #5 plastic supply.

* I recommend checking with your local recycling company to clarify what can and can’t be recycled, as it varies not only by recycling company, but by city/town. But beware: in my experience, you need to ask more than one person. I’ve found the answers vary and often times start with “I think” or “I’m pretty sure.” Ask who you should speak to for a 100% for sure answer.


About Lynn Hasselberger

Lynn Hasselberger is co-founder of GDGD Radio; The Green Divas Managing Editor; and Producer of The Green Divas Radio Show. She's also a mom, writer and award-winning cat-herder who lives in Chicagoland. Sunrises, running, yoga, lead-free chocolate and comedy are just a few of her fave things. In her rare moments of spare time, she blogs at myEARTH360.com and LynnHasselberger.com. A treehugger and social media addict, you'll most likely find Lynn on twitter (@LynnHasselbrgr @GreenDivaLynn & @myEARTH360), instagram and facebook. She hopes to make the world a better place, have more fun, re-develop her math skills and overcome her fear of public speaking. Like her writing? Subscribe to her posts.


10 Responses to “We Suck.”

  1. I have always liked the idea of glass straws, but I worry about keeping them sanitary. In the end, I think it is just best to avoid drinking out of a straw.

  2. Joe Mohr says:

    "We Suck." Awesome, Lynn 🙂
    I see more and more paper straws lately, as well. I guess they're nice because they (atleast the ones I see) are fully biodegradable, compost-friendly and 100% chlorine free.

  3. Definitely better to just forget the straw altogether. As far as cleaning, there's a cleaning brush. Thanks for reading and commenting, Victoria! Cheers 🙂

  4. Thanks, Joe. Do I see a cartoon in the making? Paper 'should' be better than plastic, but there's that argument about paper bags not being better than plastic bags so the comparison could be a challenging rocket science project! Cheers 😉

  5. Roger Wolsey says:

    I refuse straws when they're offered to me by wait staff. (also refuse ice as if their is less demand for ice, there is less demand for ice machines = less use of fossil fuels and less CO2 output).

  6. […] GlassDharma straws are sturdy, fun and even elegant. Made in the U.S.A. from a heavy duty glass (borosilicate, the same glass used for coffee pots), these straws even has a lifetime guarantee against breakage… Read more on elephantjournal.com […]

  7. Way to go, Roger! Thanks for the comment 🙂

  8. Maureen Miller says:

    Pretty awesome the way you continue to increase awareness…. just what we all need – reminders of choices…. my granddaughters love using straws – for Easter I am going to get them re-usable ones….. Thanks, Lynn.

  9. iacoca says:

    only a few people recognize the aftermath of using plastic straws, now i am less worried after knowing someone else is keeping other people aware. thanks for the information! btw, i have a facebook page i made, it has been running for a year already though the increase of the supporters r not that great comparing to straw lovers in facebook but still, i'm driven 😀

  10. tea says:

    there is also a metal straws,they r originally used to macha drinking but can be used for other liquids as well if so one desires and they r light and easy to carry around