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Gail S Hennessey's picture
Gail Skroback Hennessey taught for over 33 years, teaching sixth grade in all but two years. She earned a BA in early secondary education with a concentration in social studies and an MST in social...
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Do YOU Use a Plastic Straw?

You are sitting in a restaurant and a server brings over a glass of water and drops a plastic straw next to the glass. Any idea how many plastic straws are thrown away in the USA every day? It is estimated the number is 500 million(yes, a day). Think 125 school buses filled with straws! Many of these straws find there way into our oceans. In 2015,  a video showed a sea turtle with a plastic straw lodged into its nostril! Different groups are saying something should be done about these narrow pieces of plastic. Straws are one of the most common pieces of plastic found along our beaches.Think enough plastic straws to wrap around the Earth 2 1/2 times…that’s how many straws are used just in the USA every year!

The straw, first invented in 1888, was thought to be hygienic. It was felt that keeping your mouth off of the rim of a glass, someone else might take a sip, might keep you from getting sick. 

Interestingly, the straw actually has a long history. In a tomb of an ancient Sumerian(present day Iraq), dating back 3000 BCE, a very fancy straw was found. It was a gold tube inlaid with the precious blue stone lapis lazuli. Modern straws were made of paper, with plastic straws replacing paper, in the 1970s. 

McDonalds Corp, this month has changed to paper straws and only are given out if a customer asks for a straw.  Alternatives to paper include switching to bamboo straws. Miami, Seattle, Davis, San Louis Obispo, and Malibu are cities moving away from plastic straws being used in their cities. Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom has banned straws as has Smithsonian Institution museums. Some national parks including the Grand Canyon have switched back to paper straws in dispensers. This week,Vancouver became the first major Canadian city to impose a plastic straw ban in restaurants starting next fall. Next year, Scotland plans to be rid of plastic straws. Taiwan is working on a ban, too.

Some people are concerned about banning plastic straws. Hot liquids can't be used with a paper straw. Some people with disabilities need the help that a straw provides.

Your Turn:

  1. Do you use a straw?
  2. What do you think about the banning of plastic straws?
  3. Next time, you are in a restaurant, will you use a plastic straw if given?

Fun Facts:

Marvin Stone patented the paper straw in 1888.

National Drinking Straw Day is January 3rd, the day Stone patented his straw.

Refuse The Straw says plastic straws take over 200 years to break down.


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