Hoping for a strawless society

Because the statistics suck.

The average American utilizes 1.6 straws every single day. Not too bad, right? What if I told you that an estimated 327 million people currently live in the United States? That means 523.2 million straws are being used every single day. Now take this number, and multiply it by the 365 days in a year. This equals 190,960 million straws being used every year. In America alone. This number doesn’t even account for the estimated 8.3 billion straws already lying upon the world’s shorelines, according to Eco Cycle Environmental Organization. This immense amount of plastic is one of the largest contributors to America’s plastic problem. However, it is also the easiest contributor to get rid of.


The Plastic Problem

As a society, we should not be so selfish as to call a straw a “need.” I can guarantee anything you can drink with a straw, you can still drink with your lips. While I understand some individuals may need the small piece of plastic due to medical reasons, there are still alternatives to plastic straw use. For instance, Amazon provides an easy, eco-friendly solution by selling stainless steel straws for only $4. If we could theoretically eliminate straws from America, we would rid of 3 percent of ALL plastic pollution. While this percentage seems low, this small alteration would minimize deaths of marine life by millions. Statistics from the Sea Turtle Conservancy shows that the phrase “don’t use a straw, you’re killing a turtle,” isn’t too far from the truth. According to this organization, “over 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean.” This horrifying number all stems from straws– unnecessary, unimportant items.


The Controversy

While the switch is simple, many utensil business owners are largely against the idea. Eliminating straws would minimize a large portion of these company’s incomes, possibly cutting American jobs and decreasing business economy. What these profit-searching business owners ignore is the possibility of profit through lid-straws and stainless steel straw options. Major American corporations have begun utilizing these new ideas. For example, Starbucks has announced their upcoming switch to lids that have a built in cardboard straw. This is a more environmentally friendly material, and is more likely to end up in a trash can rather than the ocean. If business owners switched to options such as this, they would have a new variety of products and would most likely gain furthered support from environmental activists.


The Solution

Theoretically, the problem of straws would come down to one main solution: a strawless society. This would obviously be the most effective and beneficial way to escape the consequences of straws. However, with the immense polarization of views surrounding this topic — it simply doesn’t seem possible. This leads America to a different solution. Discussion has risen to charge citizens for straws in public accommodations. If every straw was 50 cents, would you be so inclined to take one? If your answer is “50 cents isn’t that much money,” I will tell you this: if the average American uses 1.6 straws per day, meaning 584 straws every year, and each was 50 cents, that would mean every American would be spending $292 every single year on straws alone. To make it even worse, the average American lives to be 78 years old. This means on average, one American would be spending roughly $17,520 on straws in their lifetime. This solution would incentivize not using straws at all, or simply bringing your own reusable straw to a restaurant.