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Women's Health Blog

Toxic Thursdays: It's Not Just a Straw Problem

Chances are you have heard of the campaign to stop use of plastic drinking straws. It is likely you have also been to a restaurant where they no longer provide plastic straws - either forgoing a straw altogether or giving you a paper option. In other cases, you might be carrying around your own reusable straws to use instead of plastic straws - something I do because I do enjoy drinking through a straw!

Recently, my family and I went to a local restaurant. A sign out front proclaimed, "We are Protecting the Environment - Plastic Straws are No Longer Used Here!"

My snarky mind shouted back: Huzzah! You are saving the planet!

While I am totally on board with stopping use of plastic straws, I must point out, dear readers, that plastic straws are just part of the problem. 

The real problem is our dependence on plastics ... and more importantly, our dependence on single-use plastics.

It can be hard to escape them. From your take-out containers to the wrapper on your tea bag to the bag your newspaper comes in on rainy days. Plastic is simply everywhere.

And, it doesn't go away. Literally - the plastic first created by humans is still existing out there, somewhere.

So, why is plastic so bad?

Because it doesn't decompose, it exists forever. So, this means any plastic dumped in a stream or that blows off of a trash truck into a farm field, lives there forever. And, in many cases, it then blows into a ditch that leads into the bay and then into the ocean. There are entire football fields (and more) of the ocean that are completely covered in plastic trash. 

Sea life eats the plastic and then it becomes part of the food chain - or worse, it kills the animal.

It seems an impossible task to overcome!

What can any of us do, really, to combat this?

Sure, stop using plastic straws. Then, take a real look at all the plastic that enters your home and your life. Use paper or compostable take-out containers instead of plastic. Talk to your grocery store about eliminating plastic where they can. Bring your own cloth or reusable bags when you go shopping. Utilize stores that offer bulk services and bring your own containers (talk to the store first about how you can do this and whether you need to weigh containers in advance.).

Sure, that's all great - but what about everyone else who isn't cutting back on plastic?

Excellent question. All change starts small. Write some letters to your legislators and ask what can be done to cut done on creation of new plastic. Unless there is a true global movement to stop creating plastics, chances are we will always have a world full of plastic trash floating in the oceans, rivers, and bays. 

Purchase reusable straws. Carry a reusable water bottle with you and keep one in your car for days you forget. Use single-use items that decompose or are compostable. Start a compost heap in your yard where you can place food items and compostable containers after you are finished and thus create rich soil to use in your gardens. Keep reusable grocery bags in your car and carry them into the store to use. 

Every single person is capable of making a change, of writing a letter, of talking about the issues affecting our environment - why not you?



Rachel Mavity

Rachel Mavity

Rachel Mavity is the Digital Communications Coordinator with Beebe Healthcare's Marketing and Communications Department. On Toxic Thursdays, she writes about saving the earth and ways to reduce our footprint. She also now blogs over at Be Real on this site.