Tag Archives: disposable straws

Marine waste and the plastic straw

plastic strawsIt seems that barely a day goes by without another article in the news claiming that plastic straws are littering the UK coastlines, affecting wildlife and upsetting locals. The following article from BBC News (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-42607662) discusses how the Marine Conservation Society is backing a proposed ban (by the Final Straw campaign) on single use plastic straws in Scotland.

The goal here is a sound one in principle, there is litter on UK coastlines and it does indeed affect wildlife; there’s no disputing this. As retailers of single use disposables we’re keen to promote the ethical and responsible use of catering disposables, indeed a large percentage of our range is now biodegradable for this reason.

There is unfortunately a fundamental disconnect between the action being taken to remove these straws and the actual cause of the pollution. The action assumes that because the waste exists it’s a foregone conclusion that it will end up being dumped in the ocean.  Surely a better solution to this would be to target the irresponsible dumping of our waste into the oceans? Sadly pumping waste into the sea at offshore locations is often chosen as the cheapest method of waste disposal, however the capability and infrastructure already exists to process this waste. If sorted properly, a huge percentage can be recycled or repurposed. Studies in America have actually shown that the most efficient way of dealing with waste that cannot be processed is combustion (https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/jun/14/green-waste-distribution-methods-recycling-plastic-oil-epa) ; waste can be used as a fuel, incinerated and turned into usable electricity.

Instead, we seem to be focusing on selective reduction of specific types of waste (such as plastic straws) over reassessing how the country treats waste. Perhaps a more holistic approach is required for tackling pollution on our coastlines?

Plastic straws can be found on our site at: https://innsupplies.com/disposable/drinking-straws

Should we ban the plastic straw?

Straws group resampledThere is a lot of media attention regarding the humble plastic straw, namely pertaining to either reducing our usage or replacing them with a biodegradable alternative instead.

Two specific issues raised by campaigners are the amount of straws ending up in landfill and waste which finds its way into the sea, thereby polluting our oceans.  Plastic straws are commonly made from polypropylene, if disposed of with regular waste this can take a significant amount of time to naturally break down. Figures vary depending on the source, but most agree it’s in the region of 450 years.

The group “Final Straw Cornwall” (http://finalstrawcornwall.co.uk/) is part of the movement that aims to remove plastic straws from bars to reduce the amount of litter on the coastline. This is obviously a worthwhile goal and one that does highlight a valid concern, straws are being disposed of incorrectly and ending up in unsorted waste.

So what do we do? There is the question of what to replace the plastic straw with, if they are indeed to be driven out of pubs / bars / clubs.  In the UK we use 8.5 billion straws every year. Campaigners have suggested that paper straws could be used instead, with an aim of being biodegradable. The issue with this however is that paper itself is an absorbent material in its standard form; it will absorb water and lose its structural integrity.  The combat this, manufacturers of paper straws use a plastic coating as a barrier; this can however render the item non-recyclable.

We’re always keen to promote the ethical and environmentally compliant use of disposable products wherever possible. An obvious option that seems to have been largely overlooked is promoting and enforcing the correct sortation and recycling of plastic straws. Polypropylene is easily and widely recycled along with regular plastic waste, it’s amongst the easier materials to process in fact (more information on plastic recycling: http://www.bpf.co.uk/sustainability/plastics_recycling.aspx).

Removing plastic straws from bars in their entirety would be a near impossible task; however changing practices in disposal would be the most efficient way of removing unwanted littering and reducing landfill usage.

It’s for this reason that we currently offer a range of recyclable plastic straws over a paper alternative, these can be found on our plastic straws page at: https://innsupplies.com/disposable/drinking-straws

If you’ve got any questions about this or any other sustainability issues, please feel free to get in touch at: https://innsupplies.com/contact-us