How could something as little as a straw cause such a big fuss? It's actually the small size of straws that makes them bad for the environment.
Why is plastic bad for the planet?
Firstly, it takes energy and resources to make any object, which means to make plastic, we must create pollution and sacrifice dwindling resources such as water and fossil fuels. Many items made out of thin plastic, such as straws and grocery bags, are meant to be used once.
But the trouble doesn't end there. Most plastics don't decompose or biodegrade when we toss them. Plastics can stay in landfills for hundreds of years.
Plastic in the ocean floats around as small pieces (called microplastics) that can poison animals and damage the environment.
Straws are only one small part of the problem. Humans have created about 9.1 billion tons of plastic since inventing the material, and we don't recycle most of it. Straws probably make up a very, very small percentage of our trash worldwide. But they've recently got a lot of attention because of how difficult they are to recycle.
Why can't we recycle plastic straws?
Unfortunately, your straws always end up in a landfill.
"Plastic straws and other items smaller than two by two inches, such as plastic utensils, fall through the machinery that sorts our recycling," says Jonathan Kuhl of the Washington, D.C., Department of Public Works. The same is true in most recycling plants around the country.
What can we do about it?
The best way to keep plastic straws out of landfills is not to use them - whether you're at home or in a restaurant.
If you'd like to use a straw, there are paper and other nonplastic alternatives.
Paper straws will probably crop up at many stores and restaurants, but you can also try reusable straws made of bamboo, metal and glass.