Elimination of Plastic Straws: Larger Impact than Just Sea Turtle Conservation?

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

-Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Over the past 4 years restaurants, colleges, and businesses have been eliminating plastic straw use by creating straw-less cup caps or enforcing the consumer to drink straight from the cup. Why? Without the capability of speaking, sea turtles have increased the awareness. Graphically shown in many Discovery Channel documentaries, videos going viral of fishermen removing straws from a sea turtles’ nose, tugs at the heart strings of society. However, with that one ‘simple’ change, does it make a positive difference on plastic production?

Plastic can take anywhere from 600-1000 years to decompose. According to the University of Central Florida, “only 8% of the plastic decomposed would be recyclable.” Plastics are found throughout many industries including transportation, construction, health care, and food products. Single-use plastics (ex: straws) are responsible for the majority of plastic use. Around 22-45% of plastic worldwide is deposited in landfills.

In 2012, only 9% (2.8 million tons) of plastic was recycled from the United States. The rest (32 million tons), was discarded of, making up 13% of the nation’s solid waste stream. What does the production and disposal of plastics have to do with marine life? Approximately 10-20 million tons of plastic enters the oceans each year.

Sea turtles are a tiny percentage of the worlds oceans in comparison to what plastic pollution effects. Nonetheless, still important, this poses the question; is the whole debate to get rid of plastic straws just for sea turtle conservation, or is the impact much larger?