Professor: Eliminating plastic straws could be ‘gateway drug’

Scrolling through social media pages, you’ve likely seen everyone from Neil deGrasse Tyson to Gisele Bündchen spreading the news to ditch plastic straws.

This movement has gained national momentum thanks to the support of celebrities, companies, and countless social media influencers.

The response has been so successful, that even companies like Starbucks and cities across the country are jumping on the bandwagon to kick straws to the curb.

According to the National Park Service, Americans use roughly 500 million straws a day.

To put that into perspective, think of that big, yellow school bus you rode to school in.  Now imagine over 125 school buses just like that filled with straws.

But instead of heading to school, these straws are being unloaded into landfills. This amount of waste is the daily amount for just one country.

Straws are only the tip of the plastic iceberg as they only make up about four percent of plastic pollution.

Given this, some critics are saying the straw ban movement is too narrow. However, we can see how each piece of plastic pollution adds up. All you need to do is think back to that school bus.

Even something as seemingly small as eliminating straws from our lives can make a critical difference when it comes to reducing waste.

Andrew Vermilyea, a science professor at Castleton University, is hoping it even creates a paradigm shift in how we view plastic.

“I think the idea is to use this as a poster child for people as consumers to consider plastic in their life,” he said.

Straws are just one example of a single-use plastic we are accustomed to in our lives.

We expect ease of use in products, which is why disposable products have found a cozy home in American culture.

Vermilyea believes the movement has the power to be a “gateway drug” for people to start making bigger changes about their disposable product choices.

“A lot of environmental movements are more based on awareness and having people just start to make these part of their every day decisions. The straw is an example of an every day decision,” Vermilyea said,

So, the next time you’re at a restaurant, opt to forego the straw. The next time you go to a grocery store, look for items not packaged in plastic.

The straw has taught us that each small change we make has the power to add up and change our habits. Kicking the drinking utensil isn’t just one less piece of plastic used, it is a message that we are aware. We are aware and we are changing.

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