So whats the deal! Here's the facts as to why we started.
There was a comment the other day on one of our social media posts basically saying whats the point of metal straws, now they will end up in the ocean, just throw your rubbish in the bin. So there were a few things worrying with this comment, which i am going to tackle today. I’m no expert on sustainability, eco living and the environment, but along the way of starting this business I have learnt quite a few facts about plastic and different materials. Some are quite alarming and can change your views on the products you use and the waste you make.
By no means am i saying this is how you should run your life, and be totally plastic free. Its hard to drop off cold turkey, its a journey, we personally are still on this journey everyday. Its a process that cant be changed overnight. But every little bit you do helps everyday, by not taking a plastic straw and using your own metal straw is your way of helping the planet. Reusing your lunch box containers everyday and your reusable grocery bags is helping keep plastic use down. Right now maybe we feel like we are doing major changes to our lives to do this. But by doing these simple acts everyday, in the eyes if our children, it becomes nothing major for them, it becomes the norm and second nature for them to reuse and use less plastic in their everyday lives. You are helping to change how the next generation thinks.
But back to our comment from the other day. Lets start with plastic facts. Unless it was incinerated, every bit of plastic ever made is still on this earth and will never leave it. On average it can take 450 years for plastic to degrade, but by degrading and not biodegrading, it just turns into smaller microscopic microplastics. Most plastics we use are single use, we don't use them for longer then 20 minutes. The comment the other day by this person was saying there is no point in reusable metal straws, keep using the single use plastic ones and throw them away responsibly. What they fail to understand is how plastic degrades, whether that be in landfill or in the ocean. The problem is that plastic never goes away and is polluting our environment. By using something reusable, like a metal straw, and refusing a plastic straw, you are reducing the amount of plastic waste going out to landfill or worse floating in the ocean. 8.3 Billion metric tons of plastic has been estimated to have been made in the world since the 1950s, with only 9% of that being recycled. In America alone there are 500 million plastic straws used everyday. All this plastic gets thrown away and left to degrade over 10 to 1000 years. But what about the plastic that escapes the landfills or never makes it?
The other big plastic problem is that people either don't throw their rubbish away or it is not making it to landfill. You see plastic every day in the kerb driving to work, on the beaches, blowing in the wind. Plastic rubbish left on beaches isn't the only way the ocean is getting polluted. Any rubbish in kerbs generally gets washed into sewers and eventually out to sea. Up to an estimated 2.4 million tons of plastic gets into the ocean from rubbish in rivers. There are 5 plastic accumulation zones in the world, basically masses of plastics all floating together in the ocean. The biggest zone is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, floating between Hawaii and California. It is an estimated 1.6 million square kilometers in size, in comparison it is 3 times the size of France. Its all good to say just throw your rubbish in the bin, but we all know for some people that doesn't happen, and sometimes your own rubbish just blows away from you. From the start we need to change from plastics to using more biodegradable materials, such as paper straws, cotton bags, reusable items, then you won't get "Plastic Islands" floating in the sea.
So the problem with these "Plastic Islands" is yes the rubbish eventually degrades due to the sun, and waves. However they are only degrading into microplastics, the only way they leave the ocean is in marine life. Marine animals ingest either the full pieces of plastic or the microplastics. Every year it is estimated that 100,000 marine animals and 1 million seabirds and fish die from plastic debris. Green sea turtles now ingest twice the amount of plastic they did 25 years ago.
But the most alarming for humans is that approximately 90% of birds and fish are thought to have plastic particles in their stomachs. Just think any plastic that makes it out into the ocean slowly degrades in smaller bits of plastic and microplastics. These small plastics are then consumed by marine life, specifically fish, the fish are then caught, supplied and eaten by you on the table. The microplastics and any chemicals from the plastic that have been eaten and absorbed by the fish, are now in that exact fish you are eating, the microplastic is now in you!
There are more microplastics floating around in the air and ocean at the moment then there are stars in the milky way. And by 2050 the plastic pollution in the ocean will outweigh the number of fish.
So just throwing your rubbish and plastic in the bin isn't going to help the environment anymore. We have to start looking at reducing waste and plastic waste. The best way is to start using products that are more biodegradable and can be reused again and again. Carrying around your metal straws and refusing plastic ones, using bamboo, biodegradable lunch boxes to carry lunch and snacks, silicone cling wrap instead of single use cling wrap, and carrying and reusing your own grocery bags. Just examples of simple, easy ways to use less plastic and still help the environment without drastically changing your life.
It all starts with refusing one straw.