The use and disposal of plastic straws became a trending topic last summer, and as this summer begins, the conversation continues. Despite the infamous status of this topic, a lot of people are still questioning what is so important about a little straw.
I'm going to explain how straws became a hot topic, and how this conversation fits into a larger concept of conscious consumerism.
In 2015, a video was released of marine biologists removing a plastic straw from a sea turtle's nose. This powerful video resurfaced in 2018, igniting a fire regarding the topic of single-use plastics (think straws, takeout containers, and plastic bags). The reason people are peeved by plastic is that debris from its production, use, and disposal often ends up in landfills, waterways, and eventually in the ocean rather than in a recycling facility.
Currently, only 9% of plastics are recycled, meaning that most of it is incinerated or is thrown away. The common curiosity of this whole movement is “why straws?” The reason plastic straws have been targeted and gradually banned is because even with the best intentions, they cannot be disposed of sustainably, because they are not recyclable. Straws, bottle caps, and other small items fall through the cracks of recycling conveyor belts and are sent to the landfill.
Consumers who are interested in reducing their impact have to make small choices throughout their days such as bringing your own grocery bags with you when you go shopping. These kinds of choices make you a conscious consumer.
Conscious consumerism is increasing your awareness regarding the impact of your purchases. This means considering the costs and benefits to yourself as well as the world and environment when you're buying everyday items or one-time purchases. These cost-benefit analyses might look like this:
While out to eat, your waiter asks if you'd like a straw with your drink. Your options are yes please, or no thank you. The cost of saying yes is that this straw will be used for the next 60 minutes, and then thrown into the trash can where it will add to a nearby landfill. The benefit of saying yes is that your teeth won't get chilly when you sip your drinks. If you say no thank you, you will be reducing plastic waste by one straw (imagine if 500 or 5,000 people did that each day!) but your teeth might get chilly. When weighed, I think most of us could agree that we really don't need the straw.
Conscious consumers are agents of change and can make big impacts by making choices that force companies into better business practices like plastic bans. Consumers voicing their opinions and putting actions behind their words has led to big changes in plastic usage across industries. There are cities and whole countries that have banned plastic straws! Clearly, being a passionate and educated consumer can have big impacts on how industries conduct themselves for the betterment of the world.
Become a conscious consumer and shop unique, sustainable, common good products at The Etho.