The start of the new year brought, amongst many other widely perpetrated mass outrages, public disdain for the use of plastic straws.
According to the ocean conservation organization Sailors for the Sea, plastic straws, like those often served with take-out soda beverages in most fast-food chains, were found to cause harm to aquatic wildlife. This is not dissimilar to most plastics that end up in our oceans. However, in 2018, a video of a turtle with a straw stuck up its nose went viral and what resulted from this was a public shunning of straws in general.
Companies like A&W have opted for biodegradable paper straws. Starbucks created a new, albeit, plastic lid for cold beverages that negates the need for a straw. The demand for reusable straws made of glass, metal and paper is growing rapidly, according to MarketWatch.
And the public has rejoiced in its environmental conservation efforts.
Although moving away from straws is a step in the right direction, it is just a drop in the ocean of what is a global plastic crisis.
According to Greenpeace, since the invention of straws in the 1950s, approximately 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced and 79 per cent of that has ended up in landfills and the environment.
The truth is, backing away from plastic straws is relatively easy to do and unless you have physical limitations that affect your ability to ingest liquids, we don’t necessarily need them.
However, when it comes to more complex commitments to be made, ones that require a general amount of foresight and planning, the environmental crisis falls by the wayside.
When was the last time you found yourself paying five cents for a plastic bag?
When was the last time you used a wax-coated, unrecyclable coffee cup in lieu of a 10-cent discount?
The current systems we have in place for rewarding or punishing plastic use are simply not effective. The fear of being spurned may have been strong enough to discourage the use of straws, but where is that same gusto when speaking about plastic bags and coffee cups?
Changes need to be more drastic.
Incentives need to be larger.
Deterrents need to be heavier.
The Ontario government is currently contemplating whether to ban single-use plastics provincewide.
Earlier this month, the government released a discussion paper on reducing litter and waste in the community and is turning to the public for comment. One such question in the survey regards a potential ban on single-use plastics like bags and straws.
The key in this is the public comment. This is an opportunity to let lawmakers and people in power know that this is an important issue to their voter base.
However, if you really want to make a difference that could have an immense impact on a wide-reaching scale, now is the time to take action.
If a few viral posts on Instagram were enough to get the entirety of the western world to shun straws, imagine the impact a provincial ban could make on plastic use around the globe.