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Strawless Summer Recap: Stop Sucking, Charleston

Box of plastic straws

What tiny changes could you make in your life that, if everyone else followed suit, would make a drastic change—not just in Mount Pleasant or Charleston, but all around the world?

One such change is to stop using plastic straws. With Fall officially here, the Strawless Summer Challenge is technically over, but that doesn’t mean that we should go back to using plastic straws!

In Charleston County, straws aren’t recyclable. Our county alone goes through more than 600,000 straws per day, all of which end up somewhere. Whether the discarded straws wind up in landfills, on our beaches, or in our oceans, that staggering amount of plastic has a detrimental effect to the environment we all share.

Straws were once one of those little things that I never worried about. I wouldn’t have guessed that they had a disproportionate effect on the environment compared to the rest of the waste that we produce. For a long time, I wasn’t even aware that they couldn’t be recycled.

And then I saw this video about a poor sea turtle.

[Trigger warning—it’s a little disturbing and may not be suitable for everyone.]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2J2qdOrW44

This Is the Last Straw

More than 70 local restaurants and thousands of individuals committed to the #StrawlessSummerChallenge, which ran through August. Our family participated, and the lack of straws was barely noticeable. We could hardly call it a sacrifice.

Even in a culture that loves cocktails and drive-thrus, it’s pretty easy to go without a product that is, let’s be honest, extremely wasteful to begin with. Plastic is an amazing, incredibly useful material, so I’m not saying you need to go without it entirely. But single-use, disposable plastic straws that can’t even be recycled? Those you should go without.

If you’re set on straws, there are plenty of options for reusable straws that don’t have the same potential to harm wildlife, and you might be surprised at just how attractive they are.

Steel straws

Sipwell Stainless Steel Straws

They’re strong, they’re safe, and they’re shiny!

Buy on Amazon – $5.95, 4.5 stars, 3,400+ reviews

Plastic straw alternative

I wanted to include a bigger straw that is perfect for smoothies, so here it is! These are BPA-free AND dishwasher safe.

Only $3.99 on Amazon – 4.5 stars, 400+ reviews

Blue and green flexible straws

These straws are made from silicone and come in two pieces so you can extend them for taller cups. They are Dr. Randy’s top choice for children, as they are soft, safe, and easy to clean, and part of each purchase goes to help the Plastic Pollution Coalition.

$10.95 with Amazon – 4.5 stars, 1,600+ reviews

While it might be easy to forgo the straw with your water, coffee, or cocktails, one of the biggest markets for straws is the fast-food industry. What are they going to do?

We need to bring back paper straws.

Prior to disposable plastic straws, paper straws were the sucking instrument of choice. Paper straws have the obvious “disadvantage” of eventually disintegrating in water, but that’s actually what we are going for. In programming language, “It’s a feature, not a bug.”

Why use an item that could choke a seagull 25 years from now just to make drinking your beverage for the next 10 minutes more convenient?

Paper straws solve this issue. They do cost a bit more, but fast-food chains can take advantage of economies of scale. With one click, I found loads of decorative paper straws for under $0.05 each. I imagine that plain straws ordered wholesale for large chains are significantly less expensive than that.

Summer Is Over, but That Doesn’t Mean You Have to Stop

Now that autumn is here, many will pat themselves on the back for a job well done at going strawless for the summer, and then go back to their old ways.

But if consumers demand changes, businesses will respond. Switching to reusable or biodegradable straws is an easy alternative, or we can simply go without. This is one small change that we are all capable of making individually, but if we do it together, the impact will be great.