One of 2017’s surprise TV hits, War on Waste, returned to our television screens this week. Among the topics explored was that of plastic waste. It zeroed in on one disposable plastic item in particular: plastic straws.
These plastic tubes seemingly created just to help us suck our drinks prettily have become a monumental menace to our environment. While these items of convenience are needed by some members of our community – mainly those who are disabled, elderly or injured – the rest is just ocean pollution and landfill-fillers waiting to happen. Since every piece of plastic ever made still exists in some form today and that it takes hundreds of years for the plastic material to break down, isn’t it silly that we create such a luxurious non-essential item in the first place (non-essential for most of us anyway)?
Plastic straws are not just environmental hazards either. When broken down, these disposables turn into microplastics that can be consumed by fish and marine creatures, which subsequently enter our food chain (if the plastic doesn’t kill them first). Indirectly, plastic straws may also be hazardous to human health.
And if all this isn’t bad enough, to manufacture plastic straws requires the extraction of non-renewable resources such as petroleum and the burning of fossil fuels for its production, packaging, shipping and transportation, and perhaps even incinerating. When we consider that all this happens to create a disposable item used for just a moment, how can we not question the intelligence of our species?
Thankfully, not all homo sapiens are ignorant and dumb. There are increasing numbers of individuals, businesses, organisations and governments saying no to plastic straws. Some of them are campaigning heavily against them.
One such business is Kappi, an Australian eco-conscious business producing sustainable alternatives to single-use items. To coincide with Plastic Free July, the brand launched their Short Straw Campaign encouraging cafes, restaurants and venues to commit to phasing out the use of single-use plastic straws. For venues that sign up and take the no plastic straws pledge, Kappi sends one-hundred stainless steel Kappi smoothie straw – free of charge.
“Each cafe that signs up and pledges to stop using plastic straws gets 100 free straws,” explains Kappi co-founder Emily Carlstrom. “Alongside the 100 free straws, they are given a point of sales kit of 40 straws to sell. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the retail straws are then used to fund the purchase of straws for future participating cafes. It’s a pay-it-forward model.” According to the entrepreneur, busy cafes can go through 50,000-100,000 plastic straws per year. Cearly, the more cafes that sign up, the more good that can be done. The pay-it-forward model is genius from a business development and social impact perspective.