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EcoWise: The Case Against Plastic Straws

When it comes to pollution, the plastic straw is an afterthought. But it shouldn’t be.

In fact, the humble straw creates big environmental problems. As the students involved with Pelham Eliminates Plastics noted at their October launch event at The Picture House, people in the U.S. alone use 500 million straws per day. (Source: Be Straw Free.) If such plastic habits don’t change soon, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

Straws are one of the plastic products PEP is targeting in Pelham. “They’re bad for the environment, and they hurt all the wildlife,” said Russ Eustace, a sixth grader at Pelham Middle School who is a member of PEP.

Several local businesses have attempted to tackle the plastic straw problem by testing out paper versions. Unfortunately, that’s not yet a great solution.

Clay Bushong, an owner of Cantina Lobos on Wolfs Lane, said his restaurant has tried three different types of paper straws. In addition to costing more than the plastic variety, paper straws were not a big hit with customers, as they tended to disintegrate in the drinks.

Lisa Neubardt, owner of the Bakery at Four Corners, said she, too, has not found a viable alternative. “If there was a product that was economically feasible and sustainable, I would use it,” she said. The bakery does try to conserve in other ways, such as by not handing out too many napkins, she added.

If you must have a straw and want to avoid plastic, you could always carry around your own, made of a recyclable material such as bamboo, glass, or metal. But the easiest thing to do, whether ordering a drink from a restaurant or takeout counter, is to just say no to the plastic straw. As Russ Eustace said, “They’re really unnecessary.” Think about it.