Call to treat disposable drinking straws the same as plastic bags
Britain’s pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants get through tens of millions of plastic drinking straws every year, with the huge majority of them going to landfill.
That’s a statistic which angers one national waste and recycling company, which says they are hugely damaging to the environment.
According to England’s waste management company BusinessWaste.co.uk, the plastic in single-use drinking straws takes centuries to decompose, causing problems both at land and at sea where plastic debris is a menace to life.
“A plastic straw has a lifespan of around 20 minutes, and then it’s thrown away,” says BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall. “More often than not, it ends up in general waste and landfill.”
Where recycling facilities exist, most pubs and bars don’t bother separating out used straws because it’s a fiddly job, and – frankly – they’ve been in the mouth of a complete stranger.
They’re invariably thrown straight into the bin and several centuries of being buried in the ground.
“With the finest minds in the world at our disposal, why is this dreadful state of affairs even a thing?” he asks.
“It’s an immense waste of resources, and there are alternatives that anybody can use.
“At the risk of sounding like one of those childhood nostalgia Facebook groups, everybody remembers paper straws for their drinks,” says Hall. “Single use, rinse, recycle.
“Even if they end up in the general waste, they decompose quickly so it’s no great loss. We’ve got to start encouraging their greater use.
“Face the facts, you’re not eight years old. Only kids need a straw with their fizzy pop. Why on Earth do you need a straw in your G&T?
“And while we’re here, the same goes for the little paper-plastic umbrella in your cocktail. They rank with Christmas cracker treats as the most pointless invention known to man.”
And the simple solution:
Treat single-use drinking straws the same as single-use plastic bags.
“Charge 5p per plastic straw, and we’ll see their use plummet,” says Hall.
Naturally, the money raised goes to charity in the same way that plastic bag fees are collected, BusinessWaste.co.uk says, and the same charge applies equally to pubs, restaurants and – of course – the fast food industry.
It’s an idea that’s got some traction – a parliamentary petition closed recently with over 3,000 signatures, so with the right kind of publicity, it could easily become an issue that will attract widespread public support.
“We’d love to see the plastic drinking straw phased out completely within the next couple of years,” says Business Waste’s Mark Hall, “That’s an ambitious timescale, but one that is certainly achievable.”
“They are pretty much the ultimate in human wastefulness, and a problem that can so easily be solved with very little effort.”
Just like the plastic bag issue, all it takes is politicians at national and local levels, as well as the end users in pubs and fast food establishments saying that their use is anti-social and unacceptable, says BusinessWaste.co.uk.
“We don’t need to invent anything new. We don’t need to invest money in more advanced products. We just need to change our way of thinking,” says Hall.
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