This year, June 5th was named “World Environment Day” by the UN and the theme for the day was “beat plastic pollution”. All over the world, people are feeling more than ever the quintessential need to reduce humanity’s negative impact on the planet. One of the ways in which the global community is attempting to fight back against the gradual destruction of our home is to slowly ban single use plastics.

Shopping bags were one of the first big single-use plastics to be addressed as a problem worldwide, and we are currently in a global process of phasing them out. While there isn’t a definitive answer to how many countries have banned the use of plastic bags, almost 100 countries or regions have adopted some kind of phasing-out policy. These can vary from a complete ban to a small tax or charge when someone uses a plastic (or paper) bag at a market.

As more and more people wake up to the danger of our daily plastic consumption, the next big step in the fight against single use plastics is banning plastic straws. After a very upsetting video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nostril went viral, so did the online campaigns against this very, very unnecessary plastic waste. Most straws are made from polypropylene, contribute to petroleum
consumption, waste a lot of water in their production process, are only used one time and do not biodegrade in the environment. Although it is hard to estimate how many straws are used each day in the world, the National Park Service estimates that 500 million straws are tossed away daily in the USA alone.

The great thing about getting rid of plastic straws is that they are so unbelievably unnecessary that replacing them is as easy as choosing to. Although the plastic straw ban hasn’t reached global proportions yet, in the USA and in Europe, countless restaurants have already replaced plastic straws with paper straws and other biodegradable straws and many are following suit. Users have begun to request drinks without a straw (sipping works!) and many businesses that haven’t been able to switch to biodegradable straws yet have simply stopped offering straws or are at least hiding them behind the counter until someone asks for one. This is the type of public mobilization that motivates governments to take action and affects the global consciousness around plastic.

Just to recap why plastic is bad for the environment and what impact does plastic have on the ocean, here are some numbers and facts that are important to keep in mind.
  • Plastic pollution in the ocean is very harmful to marine life, but also to human life. Plastic floating together with trash on the ocean absorb dangerous pollutants that can spread disease, and carry them all over the world. Other than this, microplastics are popping up more and more in our salt and seafood, as plastic becomes increasingly infiltrated into the marine food chains.
  • Through aerial surveyance, we’ve managed to discover that in some areas of the world, upwards of 40% of plastic waste floating in the ocean are derived from the seafood industry (lots of plastic nets and discarded fishing equipment), so phasing out seafood from your diet (or buying local and staying informed) is another really important step towards diminishing our plastic pollution of the oceans.
  • Plastic packaging accounts for 40% of all the plastic usage in the world. So switching to products that are packaged with paper or other biodegradable components also goes a long way.

For more facts on this subject check out the sources for this article, which include the Plastic Oceans website, that is filled with eye-opening facts that can help you make more informed consumer decisions.

Leave a Reply