ENVT 200 03

Not the Last Straw

Louise Greenwood in her article, “Are we stuck with plastic drinking straws?” published by BBC states that a leading maker of single-use plastic straws has hit a wall in the development of an environmentally friendly alternative.  Primaplast is a manufacturer of over 600 million plastic straws a month that are distributed all over the world.  They are aware of the impact of their single-use plastic straws on the environment but ran into an issue when developing more environmentally friendly alternatives.  The main problem was finding an alternative that was not going to cost one hundred percent more than plastic.  However, finding a replacement for plastic for around the same price is not easy.  Even switching to paper is undesired mainly by consumers because they get soggy faster which poses an issue for children.  Primaplast also acknowledges that they strive to reduce the overall use of all single-use plastic products but the main problem is the cost.  John Sidanta, chief executive of Primaplast, claims that the straws are “definitely recyclable” and Japan is a prime example of this as they repurpose the straws in other forms of packaging, plastic tiles, and some types of stationery.  But because the straws are lightweight, a large amount of them is needed before recycling is even an option financially.  Rather than completely cutting out single-use plastics which is frankly unrealistic for the general consumer population, there must be another solution to the problem.  It is not enough to point out the problem if steps are not being taken towards a solution.

Mainly large chains throughout the United Kingdom have either limited or completely cut the amount of single- use plastic straws and some other single-use products.  There is also a “Final Straw Cornwall” campaign to ban the use completely in bars and restaurants and has proven to be the first successful campaign.  If there are areas around the world already taking steps to reduce the use of plastics then it is clearly not impossible to implement policies to support the environment.  Working at a large, international franchise like Starbucks, I see every day the amount of straws that we go through and how many get thrown away inside the store and how many leave the store only to be left on the sidewalk up the street or in another trash can a mile away.  A company that preaches so much about environmental awareness with trashcans that clearly display the proper disposal of each of our products, still does not truly practice what they preach by allowing so much plastic waste through the cold drink cups and plastics straws.  Similar to Primaplast, cost may be an issue but where there is a disconnect is the distribution of their finances and resources and where these companies place their values.  Starbucks is known for its great employee benefits and programs and claims to also care for the environment as well by offering a discount to customers with reusable cups but still defaults to single- use plastics for almost every product’s packaging.  Primaplast is a leading polypropylene plastic straw and single- use plastic producer that claims to be searching for an alternative but it is “too expensive.”  It is hard to understand the financial set back when these companies make so much profit.  These inconsistencies call for deeper investigation by consumers.

 

Greenwood, Louise. “Are we stuck with plastic drinking straws?” BBC News, BBC, 2 Feb. 2018, www.bbc.com/news/business-42915440.

 

2 thoughts on “Not the Last Straw

  1. washingtontm

    Wow what an interesting article. It is amazing how much damage a small plastic straw actually has on the environment. Why do we even need plastic straws?
    I wonder why the USA is not making more of an initiative to break this nasty habit.

  2. prof.saunders

    Great post! I loved how you tied the article into what you are seeing on a daily basis at Starbucks. Charleston did participate in a “Strawless Summer” campaign last year where around 70 restaurants signed up to stop using straws, and I`m curious as to their policies now. Here`s a related campaign on the national level: https://www.strawlessocean.org/

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