You might have read about the “straw ban” that has been instituted in numerous cities in California. The ban has been implemented to end the danger that single-use plastic straws cause in the ocean.
Straws, due to their shape and size, can’t be recycled. Where do so many end up? In the ocean. After a heartbreaking video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck deep inside her nostril went viral, cities across the state called for restaurants and small businesses to reduce their plastic footprint.
The plastic that inevitably finds its way from trashcan or beach into the ocean lasts forever, as the materials used to make straws never break down completely. Instead the plastic breaks into smaller pieces—sometimes so small that microscopic fragments are consumed unknowingly, not just by sea animals, but by us humans as well. A recent UCLA study found that ingesting fragments from even BPA-free plastic alters estrogen in our bodies, and disrupts our thyroid-hormone system.
Some people say they dislike the straw ban because using a straw helps them cope with teeth sensitivity when consuming cold beverages. So, here’s an example where a challenge can inspire the search for innovating solutions. How can we change straws so they aren’t dangerous?
Coffee shops, such as the Starbucks in Manhattan Beach, CA, have tried paper straws. I’ve heard they’re not too popular. A few people have said they have a funny taste and one person said the straw turned to mush by the time she finished her drink.
Natalie, Bill, and I have been on our own straw solving mission, even though we aren’t straw users. We found a brand of straws, which are made from plants and are completely compostable. We tried them out. No funny taste. The straw did not break down in a glass of water for the three hours I left it in my glass. With hopes of spreading this find, we have gifted a box to three of our favorite neighborhood restaurants. At all three restaurants, the manager decided during our conversation to stop automatically providing straws with drinks. They will wait until the customer requests a straw. Each of the managers gladly and graciously accepted our gift of a box of compostable straws, with a promise to try them out. One restaurant has made the switch. Now we keep a spare box of compostable straws in the car.