Here’s why you should be refusing to have your drinks served with a straw

A child starting a campaign to protect the natural environment sounds too sweet to be true. But then again it makes perfect sense, when we think about children’s ability to slice through the rubbish and come up with a simple notion that at times is totally profound, causing adults to do a double take or leave us momentarily in a state of ponder.

A certain 9-year-old, Milo Cress, had a far reaching effect with his revolutionary idea. Why are we using straws as easily as we breathe in air? This is something many of us recyclers and waste minimalists hadn’t really thought of before, possibly because they are free and often placed into our drinks before we’ve had time to pull out our cash. But the facts and figures associated with straw consumption and waste will shock you.

Milo Cress started his campaigning on a micro level, refusing straws himself and getting those around him to do the same. Then slowly he moved towards restaurants, urging them not to freely stick straws in drinks, but rather only serve them on a customer’s request.

Cress’s Be Straw Free campaign started back in 2011 and has now spread across the globe with campaign offshoots like Straws Suck, Refuse the Straw and The Last Plastic Straw. There was a major push in this global campaign when a video of a turtle having a straw extracted from his/her nose, went viral. Following on from that a documentary on the movement has just been released this year, simply titled STRAWS.

Why the straw?

It does instinctively seem minor in comparison to other plastic items like cups or plates, but it’s the ubiquitous nature of straws that is so harmful. Think how easily they are slipped into a glass and then thrown away, and just as quickly a fresh one is put into your new drink, or all those straws attached to juice boxes, or the free straws stacked at any café or spaza shop. Their readiness, availability and turn-around-time is the issue, hence why groups are trying to overcome the careless and ultimately unnecessary usage of straws. Of course the action against straws is both a literal plight as well as a figurative one – acting as a symbol for all plastic utensils which we use without a second thought.

The statistics

Another reason why this movement has started with the straw, is the alarming statistics that prove just how damaging the thin tube of plastic really is. The US alone uses and disposes of around half a million straws a day, so it’s not surprising that the Ocean Conservancy organisation ranks straws at number 7 as the most picked up item on beach clean ups. One has to wonder then how many are floating in our oceans.

A foundation called Plastic Oceans states that one in three species of marine mammals have been found tangled in plastic, and that 90% of sea birds have plastic pieces in their stomachs. And it’s not only the physical and volumetric issues associated with plastic, but the toxins as well that affect ocean life, and humans who enjoy its waters.

What can you do?

It’s simple: refuse the straw! You will be subjecting yourself to a minuscule amount of inconvenience, but adding to a cause that is gaining serious momentum and magnitude, allowing it to have a huge impact. You can even get yourself a more durable, reusable straw or just reuse your plastic ones.

Restaurants and bars need to get involved as well, because they are, in many cases, the source of these straws. We’ve already seen three popular Cape Town establishments getting involved.

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