The Final (Plastic) Straw
It’s just 1 plastic straw………. Said 7 billion people!!
Every day, around the world, plastic straws are used for just a few minutes then thrown away. Plastic straws are one of the most common items found on beach cleanups, in the United States alone 500,000,000 are used every single day!
Plastic does not biodegrade (dissolve), in the oceans it just breaks down into smaller pieces over hundreds of years and its impossible to clean up. Here is where the problems really start to begin, each year 12 million tonnes of plastic is dumped into the oceans and our friends of the sea feel the impact first hand.
One truckload of plastic is dumped into the world’s oceans every minute!
Straws are most commonly made from type 5 plastic or polypropylene, this means many recycling plants won’t accept them. For the ones that do, the straws that make it through to the recycler are so lightweight that they slip through the sorting screens.
This contaminates other areas of the recycling and so the straws end up being disposed of as trash. This means most plastic straws end up on a landfill site or polluting the oceans.
How Do The Straws Enter The Oceans?
The simple answer is human error, but many other factors play there part too, below are the most common ways plastic straws enter the oceans.
- Left on the beach accidentally.
- Blown out of trash cans/bin wagons, boats and other vehicles.
Remember all gutters and drains lead to the sea.
The amount of plastic that has been made in the last 60 years is staggering, it should blow your mind that since the 1950s we have produced plastic as heavy as 1 billion elephants, even more incredible is that around only 9% has been recycled.
Here’s What Happens In The Ocean
Once plastic enters the ocean, rather than biodegrading or dissolving it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces known as microplastics. This poses tremendous threats to the sea turtles and our other friends of the sea.
Jellyfish, plastic and balloons they all look like lunch to sea turtles but plastics and trash don’t belong in inside a sea turtle or the ocean for that matter.
Marine animals become entangled or accidentally ingest these items while feeding, this is where the plastics become problematic. Digestive tracts get blocked leading to starvation, plastic can bloat too, leaving the turtles floating and easy prey for predators.
The Sea Turtle Conservancy says that 100 million marine animals die each year from ocean debris and more than half of the worlds Sea Turtles have ingested plastic.
What I’m about to say now, may scare you, and it should!
The latest study from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that unless the industry cleans up its act, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish!