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Why Straws Are Bad for the Environment

Updated on February 22, 2015
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Rosie is a library media specialist. An avid reader and life-long learner, Rosie enjoys sharing her knowledge and expertise in many areas.

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A Restaurant Chooses

Recently while at a restaurant, I read some startling statistics about straws and the environment. On each table, a standup table-tent card with these statistics was placed in the middle. The restaurant offered no straws and this was their explanation.

The Hazards of BPA

According to Medical News Today, BPA, or Bisphenol a is an endocrine disruptor - a substance which interferes with the production, secretion, transport, action, function and elimination of natural hormones. BPA can imitate our body's own hormones in a way that could be hazardous for health.

Also according to Medical News Today, possible health issues caused by exposure to BPA include the following. Studies linked to these findings can be found on their website.

  • Reproductive disorders
  • Male impotence
  • Heart disease (females)
  • Heart disease in adults
  • Changes in Sex hormones in men
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Problems with brain function, memory, learning
  • Quality of women's eggs
  • Reduce effectiveness of Chemotherapy
  • Increase in Breast cancer
  • Increasing Asthma rates

Startling Facts About Straws

  • According to the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, straws contain BPA - a chemical which has been proven to be toxic.
  • Each day we use 500 million straws. This is enough disposable straws to fill over 46,400 large school buses per year, according to an organization called EcoCycle.
  • Wikipedia states that plastic straws aren't recyclable and end up in landfills or the ocean. They say it is estimated over 60 million straws are consumed per day around the world.


Be Straw Free Campaign

Have you ever thought about going strawless? In 2011, an environmentally-conscious 9-year-old started a campaign urging community members to do just this. A 4th grader at the time, Milo Cress thought he could make a difference, and I think he has.

His main approach is to get restaurants on board with his initiative. He asks that instead of automatically giving customers straws, which most restaurants tend to do, that they only give them to customers when requested.

Online, restaurants can download the Be Straw Free table tent for display.

Milo encourages consumers to take the pledge to go strawless, and to carry a reusable straw if a straw is desired.

Milo Cress Shares the Facts

The Texas Roadhouse Goes Strawless

The Texas Roadhouse made the decision to go strawless in May of this year, 2013. After hearing Milo present his initiative at a conference, 13 Texas Roadhouse restaurants in Grand Prairie, Texas have taken the pledge.


Xantera Parks and Resorts Goes Straw Free

Xantera Parks and Resorts, the largest national and state park concessioner in the United States, are strong proponents of sustainability and state that they want to continue to set the standard for ecologically sound resorts that complement, not harm their natural surroundings. That is why they have become part of Milo's initiative.

What Impact Has Milo Had?

In an interview with Sustainable Schools Project.org, Milo stated:

We've got individuals from 30 countries, 800 individuals. Schools in Canada and Malaysia and a school teacher in Australia who would like to start a similar program, so we're going to try to help her with that. Leunig's (a bistro in Burlington) has an offer policy, where the server will offer a straw, which is different than an ask first policy, where the customer has to ask for a straw. That's the beauty of the project! The customers don't even really notice!"

Where to Find Reusable Straws

A great website called ReUseIt, offers many ideas for reusing and products that are reusable intead of disposable. Their reusable straws are made of food-grade polypropylene (#5) or food-grade silicone. They are 100% BPA-free and toxin-free; they are also free of phthalates. They advertise that their products are a healthy alternative to chemical-laden plastic.

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