Stop Sucking: A Case for Why Plastic Straws Need to Go


This story originally appears in the April 2018 issue of Jerk Magazine, and was written by Caroline Schagrin with illustrations by Sami Whittmann My 2018 New Year’s Resolution was to stop sucking—and not what you’re probably thinking. I pledged to stop using single-use plastic straws because they wreak havoc on the environment and are an easy item to stop using. Straws get a lot of hype. With their sleek, sometimes curly, and neon frame, everyone wants a sip. I get it. For a long time, I couldn’t fathom drinking an alcoholic beverage without one. But, plastic straws are extremely light. They often end up in our oceans and disrupt marine life. After learning just how terrible these seemingly harmless, flimsy tubes really are, I stopped sucking and there was no going back.

As of 2017, roughly 18 million pounds of plastic exist on earth, and 60 percent of all plastic produced ends up in landfills and or the natural environment. If these trends continue, by 2050, 26 million pounds of plastic will pollute the earth, according to the article, Production, Use, and Fate of All Plastics Ever Made in the Science Advances Journal. “Should we stop using plastic? No. It’s far too valuable to stop using; it’s incredibly useful stuff. Should we stop using it for disposable trash? Yes,” says Daniel Curewitz, Ph.D., an oceanography professor at Syracuse University. Plastic products, such as straws, do not break down; they only break apart into microplastic particles and end up in our oceans. “Even worse is that, because plastics are organic molecules, they attract, absorb, and store biochemically active compounds,” says Curewitz.

The U.S. throws away 500 million straws everyday, and they are one of the top 10 garbage items found polluting oceans. Have you ever seen those videos of sea turtles with straws lodged up into their noses? It’s definitely not cute hearing these turtles scream in pain as marine life activists remove the straws with pliers. If you don’t care about marine life, then that’s your problem, but just keep in mind that those straws up their noses will eventually break apart, find their way into the ocean basins, head all the way up the food chain, and probably end up in your food a few years later. “We’re eating it. We’re eating our own garbage,” says Curewitz. “And it’s not just nasty; it’s toxic and nasty."


“We’re eating it. We’re eating our own garbage”


Cities across the U.S. that recognize the harmful impacts of single-use plastic straws are shifting toward environmentally cautious habits. In partner with the Lonely Whale Foundation, Seattle permanently removed 2.3 million single-use plastic straws from the city last September. In July 2018, Seattle will become the first major city to ban single-use straws. “We knew going into Seattle that if we didn’t have a solution that’s attainable for a change then they won’t make the change,” says Emma Riley, Lonely Whale’s director of strategic partnerships. The Lonely Whale foundation was founded in part by actor and environmentalist Adrian Grenier, and is a campaign advocating for a healthy ocean. Other cities following suit include Miami Beach and Fort Meyers, Florida, Davis and San Luis Obispo, CA, and most recently Malibu, CA. If entire cities can ditch straws, you can too. “They’re a real plague on the planet and it’s a really easy plague to solve,” says Riley.


“They’re a real plague on the planet and it’s a really easy plague to solve”


There are hundreds of alternatives to single-use plastic straws and making the switch is not only easy, it’s trendy to be in tune with the environment. The switch to alternatives such as paper, metal, or bamboo, will not only reduce plastic waste in our oceans, it will keep microplastics out of your diet. “Habits have to change, or if the habits aren’t going to change, then the material has to change,” says Curewitz. It’s time to re-think the way you consume plastic. If I can stop sucking, you can too.