It is estimated that roughly 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s beaches – more than that of the earth’s population. The effects of single-use plastics are well known throughout society – but people who are willing to actually act on the issue come few and far between. I’ve decided to put an end to my hypocrisy, and am ready to address the issue through making a pledge. But first, a brief explanation of the issue, its profound effects and the economics behind it all: What’s the problem? There are three main issues with plastic straws; the lengthy period it takes to decompose, its small size and the horrifying impact it has on aquatic animals. It’s estimated that approximately 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine creatures succumb to plastic in the sea. Though straws only account for a portion of those deaths, they remain a part of the issue as numerous types of animals are unable to differentiate between it and their food. This leads to them entangled in plastic and then suffocated to death. The issue is so bad, that in 2016, a study estimated, by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. But that’s not all Plastic is one of the few materials hard to recycle-if at all possible, and straws are especially difficult. In fact, though 5 types of plastics can be recycled, they aren’t even accepted by most curbside recycling programs. Additionally, even the few recycling programs who accept plastics, are unable to recycle straws, as a result of their size. In fact, according to Jonathan Kuhl of the D.C. Department of Public Works, “Plastic straws and other items smaller than two-by-two inches, such as plastic utensils, fall through the machinery that sorts (our) recycling.” As a result, the plastic straws end up in landfills. Many places are beginning to have issues with space in landfills, which could be down to the large period of time it takes for plastics to degrade. In Hong Kong, for example, landfill space is set to run out by 2020. If we minimise plastic use, the landfill will continue to have available areas for other trash, which can biodegrade. This would allow for a smoother system. An Economical Issue In a wider sense, the issue of plastic straws is very economically rooted. Well before the inventions of the paper straw in 1880, and polypropylene plastic in the 1950s, metal straws were found in South America and, much earlier, in an ancient Sumerian Tomb. When the invention of polyprotein plastic straws occurred, the issue of plastic straws also began. Because of its flexibility, businesses, fast-food chains and other restaurants alike, adopted plastic straws, which, in turn, increased its popularity. The trend never died down, but as 2012 hit, more awareness was raised about how the material was impacting the environment. Despite this, the corporations continued using plastic straws, as, according to Adam Merran, CEO of PacknWood, a food service products company, “If you buy a paper straw, it’s about two cents and a half.” By comparison, investing in a plastic straw costs half-a-cent USD. Meanwhile, Metal straws, though longer-lasting, cost $1.72 in the same currency. Often, to save money and improve profit margins, companies opt for Plastic straws, considering them to be a better deal. In that sense, popular companies are at fault for encouraging and creating an awful trend, with long term effects – just for a larger profit. A basic but impactful solution… There will never be a solid solution which solves the issue of plastic straws but boycotting the item itself or restaurants that have it, would definitely alleviate the problem. It’s not like there aren’t possible options. While in the past, people had used the excuse that metal and paper straws are bad for teeth, it has been proven that, in fact, plastic straws are worse, as constant prodding in the same area of the gum or tooth can cause a significant cavity. For the reasons above, I pledge to never use plastic-straws again, which, if enough people join me, should tempt supermarkets to stop selling them, and, as a result, bring their price up, because of supply and demand. Published in Daily Times, March 25th 2019.