In the U.S. alone, we use half a billion plastic straws daily.

Yeah. Daily.

To put it another way: on average, each person burns through 1.6 straws per day. Crazy, right? Especially since you only use that straw for about twenty minutes before tossing it out. Clearly, we love our straws, which is strange, because a straw’s about as useful as a goldfish walker (seriously, this exists, and it’s exactly what it sounds like).

For some, straws are necessary. They’re an accessibility issue. But even if you need that straw, you can still suck without sucking. There are tons of sustainable alternatives out there—like bamboo, steel, and glass straws.

So, you’re probably wondering, what makes those seemingly harmless single-use straws so bad? Easy…

They’re a huge pollution problem

As you might already know, plastic straws are terrible for the environment.

They end up in our oceans, where marine critters confuse them with food. If by some miracle they aren’t gulped down by a hapless sea turtle or albatross, they slowly break down into microplastics. Microplastics also get ingested by animals—including us. And they’re as bad for us as they are for the environment.  

That’s why properly disposing of straws is so important. If you can cut them out completely, more power to you. And mad props, too.

But they’re recyclable, aren’t they?

Well… technically.

Single-use straws are usually made of #2 or #5 plastics (polypropylene or polyethylene, respectively), which are recyclable in many communities. But because straws are so small, recycling equipment can’t sort them. That’s why, though they’re made of recyclable materials, they belong in the garbage.

How to suck less

Thankfully, governments at every level are clueing in to the plastic straw epidemic.

California is the first U.S. state looking to ban them. Countries have done the same. Just look at Bangladesh, China, Kenya, Macedonia, and Rwanda. Plus, there are tons of local and global movements joining the fight. Straw Free, Straw Wars,  Straws Suck, Lonely Whale and OneLessStraw are just a few that have gained traction. And the list keeps growing.

You can do also do your part by buying sustainable straws or just going straw-less. And if that’s too much, you can just ask your server to hold the straws next time you’re at a restaurant or ordering drive-through. Remember, even if you get those straws in the right bin, there’s still a good chance they’ll end up polluting the environment.