It’s Not Just a Straw Problem; It’s a Plastic Problem


Every day the world is becoming more environmentally conscious. We are beginning to realise that if we want to survive – if we want the planet to survive – then we must change our lifestyles.

Plastic is one of the key aspects of our lifestyles that has a grave impact on the environment. At the forefront of the media focus on this are plastic straws. The images that circulate social media of turtles with straws up their noses are undoubtedly sad and change needs to, and is, slowly happening. But it’s not just straws that are the issue. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, even if just considering plastics in the ocean, straws are not the biggest problem.

The irony is almost painful when you order a cold drink at Costa and are presented with a paper straw in a plastic cup. While it is great that they are cutting out some plastic, it is possible to put the drinks in cups that, at the very least, use less plastic or are biodegradable

I was even more shocked to discover, after ordering from several different Costa coffee shops, that there isn’t a company-wide policy. I was pleased to find that when I ordered a cold drink at a Costa near my home to drink in, it actually came in a glass with a paper straw. And yet, just a few hours drive down the country, I was given one in a plastic cup with a paper straw, and, worse, at another Costa I received both a plastic cup and a plastic straw. It seems it is up to the individual stores to decide on their policy when it should be company-wide. There is no need to put cold drinks in plastic cups if someone is sitting in. Coffees don’t go in takeaway cups when sitting in, so why do cold drinks? And why leave it up to individual managers to make the choice? Companies should enforce the change.

Big companies see the trends. People don’t want to use plastic straws anymore, so they jump on that and cut out the straws. What about the other plastics? A plastic cup won’t end up in a turtle’s nose, but they, along with all the other creatures in the ocean, may ingest them.

There are now so many stories of dead whales washing up or getting caught in nets with tons of plastic in their stomach. It is not just a straw problem – it is a plastic problem.

McDonald’s came under fire after revealing their ‘recyclable’ paper straws were actually not all that recyclable, not easy to process, and should thus be put in general waste. And even if the straws were recyclable, they still come in cups with plastic lids.

These big companies care about keeping their customers and so they will cut out what the customers want them to. They’ll take out their plastic straws, they’ll introduce vegetarian options to maintain a large demographic, yet they don’t actually care about the environmental impact. They cut the corners to still keep production cheap while appeasing customers who saw on Facebook that straws were bad so now believe they too must boycott them.

There are environmentally friendly options, such as plastics that do biodegrade, and it is possible to do, but corporations unfortunately don’t care enough. Pressure needs to be put on them to make a difference.

More and more people are starting to carry reusable water bottles and coffee cups. But it’s not always easy to use them. If you order at McDonald’s, especially at the self-service machines, your hot drink will still come in a McDonald’s cup. If you fancy a bottle of Coca-Cola or a Tropicana Juice, you still have to buy a plastic bottle. The reusable bottles only really work for tap water.

It’s not just plastic from our own everyday use either: 46 percent of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage patch, which is three times larger than France, is from fishing nets.

Mass change needs to happen, and it is getting there, but unfortunately it might not be fast enough and the general population can only do so much. You can boycott plastic as much as possible but what do you do when supermarkets are still unnecessarily wrapping everything in plastic? When it’s hard to get a drink that isn’t in a plastic bottle? When packages that could easily come in cardboard boxes come in plastic wrapping instead because it’s easier for the corporations? It’s easier and cheaper for them to not care and to not make a change which makes individual efforts often futile.

It is important to do as much as you can to reduce your plastic usage and waste, whilst also being aware that there is only so much you can do as an individual when the big companies who could make a massive different won’t change.


2019/2020 Deputy Editor. English grad with a love for giraffes, tea and travel.

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