How plastic straws have become a global problem

Although plastic straws are small... they present an oversized problem for our natural environment. That’s because it is estimated that Americans use between 170 to 500 million plastic straws each day. That is enough to circle the globe a few times [1] ...and that is just Americans!

Plastic straws perfectly define what is not sustainable, only being used for about 20 minutes and taking 200 years to degrade (only partially … as they are not biodegradable).[2]

What’s even worse is that most plastic straws are not recyclable because they are too light to make it through recycling sorting - falling through screens and ending up disposed of as garbage.[3]  So whether you recycle or garbage, each straw you use is likely to hang around 200 years, 2.5 times the average life expectancy of a human.[4]  

Outside of just compounding at landfills, a lot of plastic straws find their path to our beaches and oceans either from humans or drainage systems. Through these, plastic straws have become a top offender of beach garbage - along with cigarette buds, food wrappers, drink bottles, caps and grocery bags. [5]

This waste doesn’t just trash our planet, it’s a serious threat to our ocean habitat. 90% of seabirds and 50% of turtles have been found with plastics in their stomachs. [6]  Other recent studies have shown that even some of the deepest sea creatures in the trenches of the Pacific Ocean are contaminated with fibers of plastic as well. [7]  Unfortunately for many animals, once they ingest plastic, their mortality rates drop to about 50%. 

So - while straws are just a piece of our worldwide plastic problem, recognize that just because they are small does not mean they are not worthy. Their size makes them nearly unrecyclable and easily confused as consumable for the animals of our planet when they make it into natural environments.

You can make a difference. Commit to eliminating your straw usage. A lifetime of straws (1 a day for 80 years) is nearly 30,000 in total. End your total today by carrying a reusable one or drinking without one. #stopsucking




1. Chokshi, Niraj. “How a 9-Year-Old Boy's Statistic Shaped a Debate on Straws.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 July 2018,

2. Mallos, Nick. “The Last Straw: Reduce Your Plastic Footprint and Hydrate Trash-Free.” Ocean Conservancy, 10 May 2017,

3. Rochita, Amanda. “The Problem with Plastic Straws and Recycling.” ABC 10, ABC 10, 10 July 2018,

4. Hugh. “Environmental Impact of Plastic Straws (2018 Facts & Statistics).” Get Green Now, Get Green Now, 24 Sept. 2018,

5. Chow, Lorraine. “10 Most Common Types of Beach Litter Are All Plastic.” EcoWatch, EcoWatch, 27 June 2018,

6. Feltman, Rachel. “More than Half the World's Sea Turtles Have Eaten Plastic, New Study Claims.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 15 Sept. 2015,

7. Taylor, Matthew. “Plastics Found in Stomachs of Deepest Sea Creatures.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 15 Nov. 2017,

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