The Last Straw

Impact of Plastic Straws on Birds


Impact of Plastic Straws on Birds

Juv pied Flycatcher on a drinking straw

This site is about birds, so what do drinking straws have to do with our avian friends?

A great deal more than most think.

Drinking straws have one purpose.

Drinking straws have one purpose: to help us consume a beverage. But these single use plastics create peril for birds and wildlife
Drinking straws have one purpose: to help us consume a beverage. But these single use plastics create peril for birds and wildlife

These pieces of plastic allow its user to more conveniently consume a beverage through a combination of muscular action of the tongue and cheeks to reduce pressure in the mouth and above the liquid in the straw, at which point atmospheric pressure forces the beverage through the straw.

This process is also known as sucking.

Straws Suck for Birds

So when I was reading Ads of the World from the Clio Awards website highlighting Greenpeace’s ‘Straws Suck’ campaign, I thought that these brilliant and straightforward ads are perfect to educate people who love birds about the dangerous perils drinking straws have on birds and wildlife.

The ads, created by the Canadian agency Rethink, draw attention to the fact that we to rethink our straw usage.

Or even better, stop using them altogether.

Here are three images from the ‘Straws Suck’ campaign.

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The Final Straw

Some of the world’s largest brands have taken the first step to make a difference.

Alaska Airlines eliminated plastic stir straws, and citrus picks from its flight.

SeaWorld vowed to remove plastic straws and bags from its parks.

Royal Caribbean Cruises and Ikea announced bans of plastic straws.

A&W Canada announced plans to switch to paper straws.

Starbucks announced plans to abandon straws in 2020.

Straws Impact on the Environment

So what’s the big deal about these thin pieces of plastic and they at the center of a growing environmental campaign aimed at convincing people to stop using straws to help save the oceans?

A straw may not seem like a lot, when its usage is added up, plastic straws create a big problem for the environment.

And for birds.

Simply put, straws often never make it into recycling bins.

Look on any beach, and you’ll see a plastic straw.

Although small in size compared with other ocean litter like bottle caps, plastic bags, cigarette lighters, Styrofoam cups, food containers, packaging peanuts, beach toys, and celebratory balloons, straws are one of the most insidious polluters.

Each year one million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals die from ingesting plastics
Each year one million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals die from ingesting plastics

390 Million Plastic Straws

According to Get Green Now, last year Americans used about 390 million plastic straws every day. 

And that equals a lot of litter that brings great perils to birds and other wildlife.

Each year, one million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals die from ingesting plastics.

That’s 1.1 million deaths from unnecessary litter carelessly discarded.

Straws Bring Peril

Straws entangle marine animals, are consumed by fish and surge of plastic trash leaves a wake of death and disease that directly affects seabirds.

Birds inadvertently feed on plastic floating on the water, mistaking it for food, and many times this ingestion leads to death and ends the lives of their young.

Plastic bottles, packaging, and straws get entangled and strangle birds.

And to make matters worse, millimeter-sized plastic pellets-the building blocks of larger products-clog U.S. harbors and soak up toxic chemicals from seawater, poisoning the creatures that swallow them.

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Bad for Birds and the Environment

-Straws cannot be easily recycled because they are made of type 5 plastic or polypropylene.

Type 5 plastic can be recycled, but it isn’t accepted by most curbside recycling programs.

When plastic straws aren’t recycled, they end up in landfills, or even worse, polluting our oceans.

-Plastics do not Biodegrade, and never fully Degrade.

Biodegrading is when an item can be naturally broken down and digested by micro-organisms, and then naturally recycled into new organic molecules and life.

Degrading is the process of breaking down into smaller pieces.

When plastic degrades, the bulk of the plastic will seem to disappear – however, what’s really happening is the plastic is breaking into smaller, invisible pieces that will always still be on Earth.

Plastic straws take up to 200 years to degrade, but will never be entirely off the Earth, as plastics are not biodegradable.

To make matters worse, the degrading of plastic releases chemicals that are toxic to wildlife and the environment.

-Straws are littered very often and harm ocean wildlife

Early 2018 data from Ocean Conservancy’s TIDES system shows that straws/stirrers are the 11th most found ocean trash in cleanups, making up about 3% of recovered trash.

Make a difference: reject the use of single-use plastics, like straws
Make a difference: reject the use of single-use plastics, like straws

Don’t Suck, Take Action

-Reject the use of single-use plastics, like straws

And if you absolutely need a straw, use reusable straws.

You can use, clean, and reuse stainless steel or glass straws over and over again.

-Reduce use of other disposable plastic products

-Reuse and recycle what you can

-Buy reusable grocery bags to cut down on plastic bag use

-Educate others about the dangers of marine debris and the plastic pollution crisis

-Pick up litter

-Volunteer for beach and stream clean-ups

-Reject being part of a “throwaway” society

-Start a conversation about the continued usage of single-use plastics and how they’re contributing to the plastic pollution crisis

-Strive to coexist with nature

Protect birds, and we protect the earth!

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