Progress on Plastics

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Roughly 500 million straws are used and disposed of in the United States every day.[1] Even though you might want to think that the majority of those straws end up in recycling facilities, the reality is that they do not. These tiny unnecessary tubes end up in landfills, city streets, beaches, oceans, and even the Great Lakes. Plastic straws contribute to 22 million pounds of plastic discarded into the water of the Great Lakes each year, which continually degrades the ecosystem health and environmental quality of the Great Lakes and its shoreline.[2]

Recently, there has been a strong push to ban plastic straws and utensils across the globe. In fact, on July 1st, Seattle will become the first major U.S. city to ban food service businesses from using plastic food items such as to-go containers, cups, straws, and utensils.[3]Smaller cities such as Malibu, CA and Miami Beach, FL have also introduced similar bans on plastic straws; while the state of California and other major cities like Portland, OR and New York City are also working towards passing single use plastic bans. [4]

Not only are cities and citizen groups demanding alternatives to plastics, but the food industry is also beginning to facilitate this must needed change. Fast food giant, McDonald’s, is already testing plastic straw alternatives across the U.S. and has set a plan to phase out all plastic straws in the U.K. and Ireland.[5] Additionally, Chicago’s largest restaurant group has also recently stopped using plastic straws in over 100 restaurants. [6] These incremental changes will hopefully inspire more of the food industry to shift away from single use plastics and lower the industry wide impact to the environment.

This continued progress of banning single use plastics must be commended. However, these are just the beginning steps of a long journey ahead. We must continue to push for alternatives to single use plastics and pressure our own communities to follow Seattle’s bold commitment to the environment. In addition, we all must make the personal commitment to stop using single-use plastics. We must say that “this is the last straw,” and do our part in stopping the flow of plastic pollutants into our environment.


[1] https://www.nps.gov/articles/straw-free.htm

[2] https://www.ecowatch.com/plastic-great-lakes-2157466316.html

[3]http://www.seattle.gov/util/forbusinesses/solidwaste/foodyardbusinesses/commercial/foodpackagingrequirements/

[4] https://www.fastcompany.com/40580132/here-are-the-u-s-cities-that-have-banned-plastic-straws-so-far

[5] https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/15/mcdonalds-to-phase-out-plastic-straws-in-the-uk-and-ireland.html

[6] https://chicago.eater.com/2018/6/20/17485768/lettuce-entertain-you-restaurants-plastic-straw-ban-chicago

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