Goodness, for a minute there I thought I was just too polite to save the world, or rather defend its oceans. Straws that I never wanted, needed or asked for have been appearing in my drinks since my move to the US and I just couldn’t seem to be heard to stop them. But the tide is turning, I think I’ve found out how keep my drinks single-use plastic free…
So what’s so bad about straws anyway?
Most straws are made from type 5 plastic – polypropylene . It is one of the least recyclable plastics (many curbside collection companies refuse to take it), doesn’t biodegrade and never fully degrades. As such they end up in landfill or worse polluting our waterways and are a leading cause of microplastics in the oceans. According to get-green-now.com 500 million straws are used every day in the US alone. Straws are the 11th most common trash found in the ocean and National Geographic reports that some 700 ocean species are currently know to consume plastic the consequences for which are not yet fully known. And we’ve all seen the horrifying pictures of marine mammals and seabirds strangled by or full of trash. Something clearly needs to change.
Having taken our first steps to reducing waste at the start of this year avoiding plastic straws seemed like a great next move. We don’t really use them at home anyway. I’d never think of getting out a straw for a glass of water for me and the children have a range of reusable beakers so that wasn’t an issue… right up until the oldest chipped a front tooth this summer and couldn’t tolerate anything cold near it. A straw was the only way to get cold liquid in to him pain free!
Reusable Straws at Home
Luckily I had these metal straws (UK link) in a draw. They did a great job for a few days until my paranoia crept in and I decided we better not risk anything hard near his repaired but still sensitive tooth. So then I added these softer silicone straws to our collection (similar UK choice).
So that was drinks and straws at home all covered. I just needed to refuse them when out and about…
Easy I thought. But not so. Going for iced tea and coffee wasn’t too tricky, I just have to remember to take my reusable tumbler (similar UK choice) but going out for meals is another story. Here in Chicagoland it seems the moment you sit down a glass of water appears on the table and waiters have procured and unwrapped (yes – imagine the individual wrappers on all those billions of straws, incredible!) straws before I’ve had a chance to tie the kids to their seats and stop the debate over which color crayons they both need from the packet.
I think this must be part cultural difference. I don’t remember quite so many straws in the UK. Yes, they arrived in soft drinks with lids but I can’t picture them in water. Not with a proper sit down meal. Quite possibly, with it not being so hot, we don’t tend to consume as much iced water and soft drink in the UK either. But this summer I’ve got a little better, a little quicker to the mark and a little less of the soft accent. I managed to not just politely put still wrapped straws cleanly off to one side but actually say ‘no thank you’ right from the start. A simple ‘I don’t need a straw, thanks’ took more courage than you’d think but, you know, not everyone looked at me like I was crazy. Maybe word is getting around.
So that’s one less piece of plastic waste for me but what about the children? My kids are notorious for spilling things especially when out. Their reputation proceeds them; it’s always me that has to sit between the clumsy one and the wiggly one because everyone else has wised up. So in the interests of drama free digestion and clean clothes they still need lids and straws and so I needed a solution!
On the Go Solutions…
For a grown up style straw I’ve found these foldable ones with a neat little container to live in your bag – the ASPERO foldable and portable 9 inch straw (UK). Perfect for when you are out and about and easy to clean at home.
And for our younger charges…
Silikids Silikon Straw Tops (UK) cover most cups or glasses with a water tight seal and a gap for the straw (UK), which you buy separately, to help avoid spills. An essential around here! They also make these cute sippy top (UK) covers for toddlers.
I was really pleased to see such a great range of reusable straws available, truly something for everyone in every situation! Refusing straws when out and about wasn’t as hard as I feared one I gave it a proper go. And hopefully the more we refuse straws the more normal it will become. So let’s toast to a plastic free drinks and oceans, “cheers”!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links where I may earn a small percentage on qualifying purchases. This does not affect the price you pay.