At this point, the negative effects of plastic on the planet are numerous. However, its ubiquity has made it incredibly difficult to replace, as there is no real alternative to its durability and strength, which are its positives as well as its negatives. However, people are now taking the matter into their own hands to solve the plastic pollution problem.
In what may be the defining trigger of the anti-plastic straw movement, a video surfaced in 2015 that most of you have probably seen: a sea turtle having a plastic straw pulled several inches out of its nasal cavity. This is a highly encapsulating video of the plastic problem. A lot of it ends up in our waterways, and what we see initially is only the tip of the iceberg on the relevant issue. From there, many activist groups were formed, a hashtag or three blew up on social media, and a movement was born.
Many of these activist groups are loosely organized and not terribly well funded, so the effect they have had is quite remarkable. While it is far from a mainstay in the service industry, a noticeable number of restaurants and bars have stopped serving their drinks with a plastic stir stick or straw. Many establishments will still give you a straw if you request one, but this simple action has drastically reduced the number of straws they go through. And, as we know, every little bit adds up.
While spots in the service industry have drastically cut down on their straw usage, much more is required to combat the billions of single-use plastic items discarded every month. A major spot where this is taking hold is in the European Union, where they are mulling a full-on ban of many single-use plastics, such as balloon sticks and cups. Having an advanced economic area such as Europe ban these items would be huge. Democratic political bodies are by design relatively open to the sway of the public, so this is as much a victory for the political body as it is for the people. However, private corporations are not as beholden to public views as politicians are, so when a major company moves forward with its own ban, it can be surprising.
McDonalds is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. It is also one of the largest food service locations internationally, so it produces a massive amount of plastic waste. In Britain, they are planning on beginning to change this by eliminating plastic straw usage by the end of next year. They use almost 1.8 million of them each day, so this is a huge win for the anti-plastic straw movement. While this may not be a majority of their plastic use, it is still something and it shows that major corporations are starting to listen to the aversion many people have towards these harmful products.
The fight to eliminate plastic waste from our planet is a long and arduous battle. It is not won by removing one of the smaller contributors to the pollution in our water and soil, but no battle is won with the snap of the fingers. By gaining popular attention with this cause and triggering a tremor in the bedrock of our plastic dependency, the beginnings of real seismic activity are born. And that is how you win—by gaining massive support and changing the global consensus on what we will allow.
So what do you think, is banning plastic straws the next big step? Or is it just a minimal impact fad that wont have long term effects?
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