We all use straws – whether it’s to sip on a cold drink, help us eat ice cream, or help us get that last bit of juice from our cup. They’re a part of our everyday lives, but we don’t often think about what happens to them after we’re done.
Plastic straws are one of the most talked about environmental threats, with an estimated 500 million plastic straws being used every day in the U.S. alone. But what you may not know is that many of these same plastic straws can be recycled.
In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of recycling plastic straws so that you can make an informed decision as to whether or not recycling plastic straws is right for you.
What type of plastic are straws made from?
In the world today, plastic straws are widely used plastic items and, unfortunately, one of the top contributors to ocean pollution. Many of us are now aware of the environmental impact of plastic straws and are actively trying to reduce their use. But where do straws come from?
The most commonly used type of plastic for straws is polypropylene, a type of thermoplastic polymer. This type of plastic is a type of polymer that is made from the combination of two organic compounds (propene and propane). This type of plastic is strong and lightweight, making it an ideal material for straws. It is also food-safe, which is important for straws since many of them come into contact with food and beverages.
Another type of plastic used to make straws is polystyrene, which is a type of styrene-based plastic that is derived from petroleum. Polystyrene is known for being lightweight, strong, and rigid, making it a great choice for straws. It is also cost-effective, which is an important factor when considering the production of plastic straws.
Last but not least, straws are also made with polyethylene, which is a thermoplastic polymer derived from ethylene and propene. This type of plastic is also lightweight and strong, ideal for straws. It is also very flexible and can be used to make straws of different shapes and sizes.
Are Plastic Straws Biodegradable?
Plastic straws are not biodegradable, meaning they do not break down into harmless components when exposed to the environment. The material used to make plastic straws is polypropylene, which is petroleum-based plastic and does not decompose. It is estimated that it takes up to 200 years for a single plastic straw to degrade. Because of this, plastic straws are considered one of the most significant contributors to plastic waste in the environment.
Even when plastic straws are placed in a recycling bin, they often get rejected due to their small size and irregular shape. This means they end up in landfills or the environment, posing a risk to marine life and ecosystems. Countries like the United Kingdom have passed legislation to ban single-use plastic straws and many restaurants and businesses have switched to biodegradable alternatives such as paper straws or metal straws.
Are Plastic Straws Bad For The Environment?
The short answer is yes. Plastic straws are becoming one of the most ubiquitous forms of plastic pollution in our oceans and on land. Each year, millions of plastic straws are used and discarded, ending up in landfills, waterways, and oceans, where they can take up to 200 years to decompose.
They are a huge contributor to the 8 million tons of plastic that end up in our oceans every year. Scientists estimate that there are now more than 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile. This is a major problem that is having a devastating effect on marine life and their habitats.
One of the top ten items found in ocean cleanups is plastic straws. Straws are lightweight, meaning they can easily be picked up by the wind and carried great distances, finding their way into bodies of water and onto beaches. Straws are also small and thin, making them a choking hazard for sea life, such as sea turtles and other marine animals who mistake them for food.
The use of plastic straws is not only harmful to the environment but also harmful to your health. They are made of polypropylene, a type of plastic that can release chemicals, such as bisphenol A (BPA), into the food and beverages they come into contact with. These chemicals are endocrine disruptors, meaning they can interfere with the way hormones work and increase the risk of certain health problems.
Can you recycle plastic straws?
Unfortunately, most plastic straws are not able to be recycled due to their small size and lightweight material. However, some cities and municipalities may have specific programs in place to accept plastic straws for recycling.
The first thing to note is that most straws are made from polypropylene plastic, a type of thermoplastic that has been used to make a wide range of items, from car parts to food containers. It’s not just straws that are made from this material – it’s also the majority of plastic bags and packaging.
Municipal recycling programs do not typically recycle polypropylene plastic. If you want to recycle your straws (and other polypropylene plastics) you’ll need to find a specialized recycling program or drop-off location.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to recycle your straws. Some companies, such as TerraCycle, specialize in collecting and recycling hard-to-recycle items like plastic straws. You can also look for drop-off locations in your area that accept plastic utensils for recycling.
Various Things You Can Do With Plastic Straws
Plastic straws are some of the most versatile items you can have around your house. From crafting and decorating to creating everyday items and even creating an entire room makeover, there are all sorts of things you can do with plastic straws. Here are 10 of the most creative ideas to get you started.
- Create Wall Art: Create a one-of-a-kind wall art masterpiece by threading colorful plastic straws into a variety of patterns. You can also create shapes and letters with straws to give your art an extra touch.
- Make a Garland: Use plastic straws to create a festive and colorful garland for your home. Simply cut straws into various lengths and string them together with twine or string.
- Create a Chandelier: If you’re feeling creative, why not create a chandelier out of plastic straws? The straws should be cut into various lengths and threaded together with twine or string. Hang your chandelier in the center of your room to add a statement.
- DIY Pencil Holders: Repurpose plastic straws into a clever pencil holder. Simply stack straws together, tie them off with twine, and stick them into a mason jar.
- Make Bookmarks: Use plastic straws to craft one-of-a-kind bookmarks. Straws can be twisted with yarn or ribbon, and add a tassel or charm to the end.
- Decorate Your Notebooks: Use colorful plastic straws to decorate the cover of your notebook. Slice the straws into different lengths, then glue them down to the notebook to give it an extra touch.
- Picture Frames: Build a unique picture frame with plastic straws. Glue together the straws of different lengths to create a frame.
- Create a Coaster Set: Use straws to design a unique coaster set for your coffee table. Straws should be cut into different lengths and then adhered together to form a coaster.
- Make a Wind Chime: Create a unique wind chime by threading straws together. Divide the straws into different sizes, then tie them together with twine or string.
- You can create a Beaded Curtain: Create a beaded curtain with plastic straws. Put together a variety of sizes of straws, then thread them together with twine or string. Hang the beaded curtain on any door or window in your home.
Are there any alternatives to plastic straws?
Yes, there are many alternatives to plastic straws, including reusable metal, glass, and bamboo straws. Reusable straws are a more sustainable choice than plastic straws
What can I do with plastic straws if I can’t recycle them?
If you cannot recycle plastic straws, the best option is to avoid using them altogether. If you already have plastic straws, there are several options for reuse or disposal. You can reuse the straws multiple times, or consider donating them to an organization where they will be reused. Alternatively, you can dispose of them in your regular garbage.
How can I help reduce the use of plastic straws?
There are many ways to reduce the use of plastic straws, such as using reusable straws, avoiding straws altogether, or using paper straws.
What happens if I put plastic straws in the recycling bin?
Placing plastic straws in the recycling bin is not recommended because they are too small and difficult to be sorted out when the recycling is processed. Many recycling facilities will not accept plastic straws due to their size and difficulty in sorting. The best way to dispose of plastic straws is to recycle them with other plastic products or reuse them.
What happens to plastic straws if they are not recycled?
If plastic straws are not recycled, they will either end up in landfills or the ocean. In landfills, they will take up valuable space and will not decompose for hundreds of years. In the ocean, they will be eaten by marine life, which can potentially cause health problems. In addition, plastic straws can break down into tiny microplastics, which can contaminate the water and be consumed by fish and other wildlife.
It is evident that recycling plastic straws is possible, and there are certainly benefits to doing so. Not only does recycling plastic straws help to reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in the environment, but it is also a great way to save money and resources.
There are various methods of recycling plastic straws, such as sending them off to be repurposed or even creating art and crafts with them. However, the best way to reduce plastic waste is to avoid using them altogether. Making the switch to reusable straws is a great way to help reduce plastic waste and create a greener future.
Gemma Alexander has an M.S. in urban horticulture and a backyard filled with native plants. After working in a genetics laboratory and at a landfill, she now writes about the environment and recycling topics.