Use of single use plastic straws for your drink : Why?

Last week on eTN Ameer Ebrahim, our Environment Consultant for the St.Ange Consulting Group in the Seychelles wrote about Plastic being a global epidemic. He said “As the world population increases, so does the global production and consumption of plastics. Plastic has some amazing properties – it is versatile, lightweight, flexible, moisture resistant, strong, and relatively inexpensive. These attractive traits have lead to an insatiable appetite and over-consumption of plastic goods by us humans. Unfortunately, this comes at an extremely heavy cost”.

This week we go a step further down this path with a committed industry player showing willingness to be part of the solution. You have probably seen the heart-wrenching viral video on the internet, where researchers in Costa Rica struggle to remove an obstruction from the nasal passage of a sea turtle. During the cringe-inducing effort, they realize they are battling a disposable plastic straw. These plastic straws are trashing up the world. There is not a beach around the world that is free from this plastic pollution. Our waters are all fouled. Wildlife can and does easily confuse straws for food and cause themselves much harm.

Fortunately people are waking up to this and starting to do something positive. The Ocean Project Seychelles is a newly registered NGO with the objectives of educating the public on the threats of marine debris, encouraging communities to take action by stopping debris from entering our oceans through coastal clean ups, and switching to eco-friendly, reusable alternatives to plastic. So far this year, they have organised clean-ups and prevented tons of rubbish from entering our oceans. After their clean-ups, they also sort the rubbish and now have a database containing the various types of debris collected. They aim to use this data to help government inform policy and will soon be launching a campaign to end the use of plastic straws in Seychelles.

The ‘Empowerment Zone’ website notes that “Straws are a damaging global environmental hazard increasing by millions daily, polluting the environment and waterways and injuring wildlife. Over 500 million plastic straws are used daily worldwide for an average of 20 minutes before being discarded. They are an item of convenience and essentially useless but people continue to use them despite their effects on the environment. From production to disposal, plastic straws consume non-renewable resources and take thousands of years to break down, are non-biodegradable and when disposed photodegrade over time, causing each piece of plastic to break down into small fragments”.

Quick facts about plastic straws:

  • Over 500 million plastic straws are used daily worldwide.
  • Straws are made from natural resources including crude oil, natural gas and coal which cannot be replaced once depleted.
  • 20 minutes is the average time a straw is used before being discarded.
  • Straws are one of the top 10 items littering our marine environment.
  • 90 per cent of rubbish floating in the world’s oceans is plastic, primarily straws, bottles and caps.
  • Studies estimate 1 million sea birds, 100,000 mammals and countless fish are killed every year from plastic.
  • Reports indicate there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

So what are positive steps that can be taken and what are people already doing about this in the Seychelles?

One company that has already taken an initiative on this is the Club Liberté Casino at Baie Lazare. The progressive management of this establishment has already stopped using plastic straws and has replaced them with compostable biodegradable paper straws. The casino management say it will only use biodegradable paper straws in a move it hopes will stop many plastic straws entering landfill or making their way into the world’s oceans each year. Alongside this, the company will no longer use plastic containers for takeaway food items but only biodegradable containers.

Yes, it is only a small step that the Club Liberté has taken in the overall usage of plastic straws and other plastics in the Seychelles, but if every other outlet follows this example, then it can make a major long-term difference.

To reduce your use of plastic straws, refuse one with your next drink order. It is these small actions taken by individuals collectively that can lead to extensive positive change.

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