Why Plastics are on the way out and why Straws are a big first step
Plastics are on the way out. They’ve ruined our environment for years and if we continue to use them, they’re only going to cause more harm. It’s incredibly hard to imagine the sheer scale of damage they’re causing and how much of an issue they are. Therefore, here at the Common Blue base, we feel that it’s important to at least attempt to highlight the scale of this devastation by documenting it to show how much of a difference even simple solutions can make, and why alternatives are desperately needed.
Firstly, let’s consider the capacity of plastics that have been used in businesses for years. In 2015, Germany, France, the U.K. and Italy alone used 18.5 Billion plastic straws. This is a simply unfathomable and insane number. Earlier this year, HumphreyTalks blew up on TikTok representing the scale of a billion with reference to a million in terms of money, and it’s definitely a mind-blowing experiment. Now imagine that, times 18! For just four countries! Not only is that approximately 18 billion straws going into our planet scarring landfills and slowly decaying oceans, it’s also part of an unsustainable production line that contributes to global warming, with shipping companies using planes with a huge carbon footprint, and factories using coal and oil to mass-produce plastic 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 365 days every year. This combination of production process and waste product hugely accelerates global warming and the climate crisis, as well as sending millions of tonnes of plastics straight into the mouths of all kinds of fish, all over the world, lining sea beds with coral-killing synthetic waste and even littering some of the world’s most serene landscapes.
To emphasise this effect, we can already see nature’s reaction to plastic pollution. As quoted from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, “The most visible and disturbing impacts of marine plastics are the ingestion, suffocation and entanglement of hundreds of marine species. Marine wildlife such as seabirds, whales, fishes and turtles, mistake plastic waste for prey, and most die of starvation as their stomachs are filled with plastic debris.” Further than this, oceans affected by plastic can hurt economies adversely – from tourism to simple hobbies like diving, to fishing, to sports and so much more. From Kenya, where plastic waste campaigners have been trying to raise awareness around their changing beaches, with one activist sharing that local, even on-land animals, such as donkeys and cows are being killed by their plastics, with local businesses who look to farm or even simply conserve ecosystems destroyed. In Oceania, huge campaigns are continuously ongoing to save coral reefs from dying, with 700 miles of the Great Barrier Reef slowly decaying over the last 30 years. So much destruction. Even with 4% of this damage, 28 miles of coral reef would have decayed, and that’s just one of thousands of cases. There are examples spanning all continents and all kinds of people and ecosystems across the world that show we need to get rid of plastics immediately, but it’s incredibly hard to communicate the scale of that damage.
However, there are also many programmes already working towards this cause, and it would be naïve and cynical to not mention their efforts. From entrepreneurs creating sustainable lifestyles like ours, to the divers taking close personal care of as much of the Great Barrier Reef as possible, to the Plastic Pollution Coalition; there are hundreds of programmes designed to reduce, recycle or create alternatives for plastic. This has now become a social movement, and we can all work hard to take part. The most key thing that you can be doing is finding alternative ways to live without plastic. If everyone changed just a couple of small things about their lifestyle, we could make a difference. Take our straws as an example. In 2018, plastic straws took up 4% of the plastic production worldwide. That’s almost 1.5 million metric tonnes of plastic, which we want to wipe off the map. A further example includes plastic bags, which have been advised against in many countries, from the U.K.’s 5p plastic bag charge to Argentina’s mass adoption of ‘biodegradable’ and paper bags. The 5p charge in the U.K. has helped massively, with a reported minimum of an 86 per cent drop in plastic bag use in the UK's seven biggest supermarkets since the scheme was introduced. There were more than 7.6 billion single-use bags used in 2014 but in 2015, once introduced, that had fallen to just 1.7 billion. These simple but subtle processes have already reduced plastic massively with little disruption, and with your help programmes like these can continue to expand - or you can even start your own! Furthermore, you can donate or volunteer with many plastic activist or ocean life charities, as they are always looking to expand their programmes using your donations. These charities help all over the world, from Mauritius to New Zealand to Antarctica, and have been extremely influential in their role to reduce harm to animals.
Finally, it’s important to consider what potential downsides there could be to the alternatives you choose. What we all have to be careful of is simply shifting to another comfy alternative that harms marine life just as much or impacts a different aspect of nature. For example, it’s important to yet again consider the use of paper straws and ‘biodegradable’ plastic straws as these are actually far less than ideal. For paper, production costs in terms of greenhouse gases are 70% higher, and therefore it is simply a trade-off to save marine life while speeding up climate change. Furthermore, biodegradable plastic straws are not really an option either. While they may be called biodegradable, they actually regularly do as much damage as normal plastic straws. For them to be destroyed they have to be kept in industry standard containment for weeks and months and it is extremely hard to guarantee they will get there. As for metal straws, they are just dangerous.
It’s for that reason that we sell and promote our straws made out of straw. Plucked directly from nature, sterilised and transported with low carbon footprint, they’re the most eco-friendly you can get. If you’d like to make small but powerful changes to your lifestyle and consider some plastic alternatives, Common Blue's official Straw by Straw straws might be the place to start. Every day we use thousands of plastic straws around the globe. Why continue with that when there are millions of straws growing in nature every year?