Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ideas That Suck - The Straw, and How to Degrade It

We set aside Earth Day so that, hopefully, we humans remember that we inhabit a living planet – a planet we pollute, abuse, disrespect and disfigure.

There are a number of ways we do this, and one of those is…straws. Seriously – how harmful can a straw be? As I was working on my book, Our World of Water, I wanted to understand the garbage patches that float in our oceans, so I contacted the National Oceanic andAtmospheric Administration (NOAA) a federal agency focused on the condition of the oceans and the atmosphere and spoke with Communications Specialist, Dianna Parker.

Briefly – the garbage patch is an area of marine debris concentration in the North Pacific Ocean. The name “garbage patch” has led many to believe that this is a large and continuous patch of marine debris such as bottles and other litter - akin to a literal blanket of trash that should be visible. “This is simply not true,” NOAA states. “A majority of the debris observed in the garbage patch is small plastic pieces; difficult to see due to their size, and many of these pieces may be suspended below the surface of the water. For these reasons, the debris, or “patch” is not visible with existing satellite technology.” And exactly what kind of plastic is floating in our oceans? Ms. Parker broke it down for me:

Polyethylene terephthalate - plastic beverage bottles.
Polyethylene - plastic bags.
PVC - plastic construction tubing.
Polypropylene - drinking straws.
Polyamide – toothbrushes.
Polystyrene – take out food containers we’ve all used.

So I want to focus on straws. I don’t use straws, personally, but many people do. Straws suck (pun intended) because they are on the above list and they are made of plastic that does not degrade.

“Marine debris is a global problem and the oceans are all interconnected,” NOAA’s Parker told me. “Increased recycling is certainly a great step toward sustainability and is part of improved waste management that could lead to less debris.” But stopping debris from entering our waters is nearly impossible. “Our goal with our monitoring project is for localities to note the trends in debris.” She stresses that it if trends can be diagnosed locally the causes of trash can be pinpointed more accurately and those trends might even be decreased because of targeted outreach to the public. After all, recycling and waste management upstream obviously has a tremendous impact on debris levels that are allowed to flow downstream to the oceans.

Certainly part of the solution is more aggressive recycling programs, but fundamentally it is continued outreach and education to the consumer: simply put, far too many people and businesses disrespect our natural environment and do not understand how our oceans are connected to our very own health.

Aardvark Straws
So I’m thrilled that we now have paper straws! A company called Aardvark makes these fun, durable, flex straws that will decompose in 45 to 60 days (I wanted to make sure their claim was valid so I checked on 3rd Party Certification with Cedar Grove). The Aardvark straws are available in more than 200 customizable designs and they are made of paper from sustainable and renewable tree farms, plus water soluble glue and inks, and are the only paper straws made in the U.S.A. Please note, I have no affiliation with Aardvark, I’m merely telling you ways you can love Mother Earth back. I received no money, no support, napa, zip, zero, bupkis.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, Xanterra Parks& Resorts “Choose To Be Straw-Free” initiative implementing an “offer first” policy (offer before you just give everyone a straw). All of Xanterra’s national park concessions in Crater Lake, Death Valley, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, and Zion now participate. “Consider that these little conveniences are made from oil, a nonrenewable resource,” Xanterra says. “Energy is used to extract the oil and manufacture the straws. Gas runs the trucks that deliver straws to consumers. That doesn’t even take into account the packaging around straws,” Xanterra says. That may not seem like much, but it’s a great start towards the health of our oceans and I applaud both Aardvark and Xanterra.

Let's keep fighting for healthy waters!
I am deeply concerned about the health of our planet, especially our oceans, rivers and streams, all our waterways. We need to be vigilant in protecting our planet. There is only one and she needs our help.

No comments:

Post a Comment