No straw, please!

It's summertime in the city and with it comes many of the summertime delights that NYC has to offer - strolls in the parks, outdoor festivals, free films and absolutely refreshing iced beverages. Perhaps this time of year more than any other, having our smoothies, iced teas, iced chais and iced coffees puts an extra spring into our step. I don’t know about you but every day I see them by the 100s on my way to work. And I myself partake a little more frequently than I should…

...which is why I want to bring up the topic of straws.


I'm already on a personal campaign to significantly reduce the amount of plastic that I consume in my daily life due to the negative environmental impact of its production and decomposition. But what about straws? They are not typically recyclable so I wanted to do some research on their environmental impact specifically. Here is what I found out:


Each day in the United States we use 500 million straws. That’s enough to fill over 46,400 large school buses per year according to the Be Straw Free Campaign started by then 9 year old Milo Cress. (Milo started his environmental campaign when he determined that using a drinking aid was an unnecessary use of plastic. For more, information about his campaign use this link.)


The majority of these drinking straws are thrown away and inevitably end up in landfills or, in the case of NYC, the ocean and other bodies of water. And given that clear plastic resembles the iridescent creatures that are so savory to birds or large fish and ocean mammals; it is not uncommon to find bits of plastic, especially drinking straws, in the bellies of biopsied animals.

Straws like other plastics are a result of the petrochemical industry and contain known carcinogens that leech into our drinks and into our ocean and soil when they end up there as waste. And the interesting thing is that the use of straws is a personal choice made based on convenience not necessity (except for a few rare instances), especially in restaurants where we are more than capable of drinking directly from the glass.

There are paper straws, metal straws, re-usable plastic straws and the elegance of sipping from a glass sans straw altogether. This is one choice that we can make every day to contribute to a more sustainable way of life and healthier waterways and parks in NYC.

Posted on 08/01/2013 in Reducing | Permalink

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Kristen Adams, Department of Anesthesiology

Dorysel Mora, Department of Neurology