Monday, March 4, 2013

The case for biodegradable drinking straws….or no straws at all!

According to many sources, we use approximately 500 million drinking straws every day. Straws are credited with protecting the enamel on the teeth of children from the sugary drinks consumed by the majority of children on the planet. In Mexico this is a massive issue due to the fact that we have the highest soft drink consuption in the world! So essentially straws do have some benefit, but branding them a benefit and then moving on, only tells a fraction of the story.

Straws aren´t necessarily the issue, but the material in which these straws are made of IS. Two hundred years ago, straws were made of naturally occurring materials such as reeds but in the late 1800´s, the process of fabricating paper straws was invented. In order to keep the paper straws dry, a coating of paraffin wax was applied. With the advent of plastics, the biodegradable paper straw was ditched for the plastic kind.

Plastic, while cheap to produce, is very hard on the environment in both fabrication and disposal. Besides the petrochemical stew that goes into their creation, they are not biodegradable and often end up in lakes and streams throughout the world. Once in the ecosystem, they often lead to the death of many types of animals which try to consume the trash. In addition, these straws leach chemicals into the environment which slowly poison our water, land and other valuable natural resources.

In Mexico, the pollution of our watersheds is a huge problem both from trash and chemical contamination. Public education is still in its infancy here. Regardless, it is up to all of us as responsible citizens to make the individual choice to change our behaviors while the rest of society catches up to where they should be. So what is the best choice in this case?

The more ecologically friendly choice is to start using paper straws again…or better yet, not using straws at all. When you don´t use straws you end up drinking less. If you are drinking sugary beverages without a straw, the end result is the consumption of less calories. So if minimizing the impact on the environment isn´t enough think about minimizing the impact on your waistline!

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