Plastic Free July is almost here!

Steering Committee Members Max and Daryn share important information about single-use straws!

Straws. The totally unnecessary, slender tubes of plastic we use on a daily basis, are a major source of pollution. Whether you’re out at a restaurant or drinking a nice lemonade at home, it is likely that you are doing so through a straw. These straws hardly ever make it to the recycling bins and end up in oceans where they are consumed by marine life. Around the world, countries and restaurants are taking a stand against plastic drinking straws to help make our planet a little greener.     

Single-use plastic is one of the worst pollutants today.  These items, like plastic straws, have an incredibly short lifespan. They are normally used once, and immediately discarded. At best, they end up in landfills. Sadly though, plastic usually makes its way to our oceans where it harms and kills turtles, fish, whales and other marine life.

It’s hard to understand how enormous one little straw’s impact is on the environment. To put it into perspective, one straw is used for an average of 20 minutes, yet it will stay on this planet for centuries. Did you know that in the United States alone, there is an average of 500 million plastic straws thrown out every single day? That’s about 1.6 straws per person, per day.

Scientists in Costa Rica came across an endangered species of sea turtle, the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle, with what they thought was a parasitic worm blocking its airway. Turns out it was actually a 10 cm plastic straw. After hours of veterinary help, they successfully dislodged the straw and released the turtle back into the ocean. (Here is a link to the video if you’re interested.)

Recently, a Winnipeg based chain of restaurants called Salisbury House decided to completely stop using plastic straws, and switch to biodegradable ones. They aren’t alone either, restaurants including Clementine, Carlos and Murphy’s, and Tipsy Cow have all started using some method of reducing single-use plastic.

In fact, it’s a growing trend among environmental leaders across the globe. Some places have even opted to ban the use of plastic straws completely. Justin Trudeau said he would consider a countrywide ban on single-use plastic after the G7 meeting in June, which could include plastic cups, bags, containers and stirrers, as well as straws.

If you really enjoy using a straw, that’s totally ok! There are several alternatives to plastic straws. Many places today stock reusable glass, stainless steel, biodegradable or bamboo straws. You could always buy your own reusable straws as well.

Besides straws, there are other ways to reduce your use of single-use plastic, for example:

Use reusable grocery bags
Plastic bags take centuries to degrade, and people tend to throw them out after a few hours of use at most. Keep a few reusable bags in your car, backpack or purse just in case.

-Bring a water bottle or travel mug
Plastic water bottles use a lot of crude oil to manufacture. In the long run, it would be cheaper, healthier and better for the environment to simply use a glass, metal or BPA free water bottle.

-Don’t use plasticware
If you must use plastic forks, spoons or knives, you could wash them and reuse them. Another alternative would be to simply buy travel cutlery and put them in your backpack or lunch bag.

-Use reusable containers
Instead of using plastic baggies, try to use glass or reusable plastic containers to pack sandwiches and fruit for lunches and leftovers.

-Buy in bulk
Instead of buying snack sized packs, try buying things in bulk if you know you will eat it all. It can save you money, a trip to the store, and help reduce your carbon footprint.

There are a lot of little things in all of our lives that we do thoughtlessly that can have a real impact on the plants and life of our planet. When we make an effort to limit the small things we do that have negative effects on the environment, we can really make a difference. Using reusable water bottles and bags, being more conscious of how things are packed and stored are simple ways that actually help the environment. All it takes is making a few small changes in your daily life, to make big changes to the world.

By Max Wiebe and Daryn Farrant

MEYN Steering Committee 2018