How the "No Straw Pledge" Prevents Landfill and Ocean Waste

(3BL/JustMeans) Bacardi pledged to stop serving straws last year at company events. The company known for its rum began its "no straw pledge" at its North America regional headquarters office in Coral Cables, Florida and its Bombay Sapphire Distillery at Laverstoke Mill in Hampshire, England.

Why would the world’s largest privately held spirits company join with other companies and National Parks and take a no straws pledge? Straws and stirrers are among the pieces of garbage that are the most collected in the oceans. Over eight million tons of the nearly 300 million tons of plastic produced every year ends up in the oceans. A collection of marine debris exists in the North Pacific Ocean commonly called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is about the size of Texas and is in waters from the North American West Coast to Japan. There are two patches that comprise it: the Western Garbage Patch near Japan, and the Eastern Garbage patch between Hawaii and California. Most of the debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not biodegradable. Most plastics break into smaller and smaller pieces. Those small pieces look like food to marine life and they wind up eating it. About 44 percent of all seabird species and 22 percent of cetaceans have eaten plastic, and plastic outnumbers algae by a six-to-one volume.

In the US where the population is 320 million, there are 500 million disposable straws used daily. That amounts to an average of 1.6 straws per person in the U.S. daily. And each American between the ages of five and 65 will use about 38,000 or more straws. If 500 million straws were lined up they would stretch around the globe two-and-a-half times,—equal to filling 125 school buses with straws. The amount of straws used yearly equals 46,400 school buses filled with straws. Over 175 billion straws end up in landfills and in the oceans every year. Straws are ranked number five on the list of top 10 garbage items that end up in the ocean.

Most plastic straws are made from polypropylene, a byproduct of the fossil fuel petroleum. Extracting petroleum uses energy. Once plastic is made, more fossil fuel is needed to take the plastic to straw manufacturers, and they use electricity to power the straw manufacturing machines. Even more fossil fuels are needed to get the straws to vendors who sell them to restaurants and other businesses. Plastic straws are nearly impossible to recycle because of their small size.

Companies like Bacardi who take the no straw pledge are helping to change consumer behavior. Bacardi’s pledge alone will prevent an estimated 1 million straws and stirrers from ending up in landfills.

Photo: Bacardi