Straws sucking the health out of oceans?


Cornstarch straws are beginning their climb to replace their not so eco-friendly relative, plastic.

Marissa Medico, Contributing writer

            By the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. That’s due the steady use of plastic in everyday life, according to the Straw-Less Ocean organization. Over 550 million straws are used by Americans alone in one day. So how does something so small, such as a straw,  affect the world and its future so greatly?

            Mr. Alan Hanks, a science teacher at Lewis S. Mills high school and the faculty advisor to its Eco-Action Club, said plastic pollution adds up.

 “Pollution in the ocean is a serious problem,” Mr. Hanks said. “It’s mostly one-time use items that are polluting the ocean.”

Pollution in the ocean has been increasing rapidly, he added.

Mr. Hanks explained that the Eco-Action Club has been trying to get stainless steel straws for the school. Even though this may seem like a small effort, it will help improve the future of the Earth. The club recently staged a fundraiser selling these items to students and staff.

Margaret Dreher, director of nutrition services for the district, confirmed that next year Lewis S. Mills will be eliminating straws completely with some paper straws. The goal is to create a more eco-friendly space in the cafeterias. Ms. Draher also talked about how reusable straws would be unsanitary and would increase the usage of water to clean the utensils.

 “What are we waiting for? Let’s do this switch,” said science coordinator Renee Turley, who strongly supported eco-friendly straws and is ready to help stop plastic pollution from increasing.

She talked about how many colleges have ditched plastic straws and now use ones made of corn starch.

“Just this simple switch could save so much money and the environment,” said Ms. Turley, referencing the trash piles in the ocean.

She explained that the trash pile in the Pacific Ocean is length-wise, about the size of Connecticut, and depth wise, about 50 feet. She states that there is also a trash pile in the Atlantic, but it is not at large.

When asked about why straw pollution has become a popular topic of discussion, Ms. Turley said, “it is a piece that represents the epidemic of pollution.”

In the ocean, straws and plastic break down and look like food to marine life. Ingesting such material can cause death due to health problems such as extreme stomach pains. As a result of plastic pollution in the ocean, marine life is decreasing rapidly, according to experts. Sea turtles are found with straws lodged in their noses; other marine life has been found tangled in plastic bags or with plastic in their stomach.

 “Personally, I think that pollution can be avoided” said eco-enthusiast and freshman Grace Caraco.

Pollution in the ocean is caused by three main elements: littering, garbage left on beaches, and garbage being blown out of trashcans, boats, and other types of vehicles. Caraco talked about how it’s only the people’s choice to continue the polluting or to put a stop to it.

“Kids should be educated on pollution, and reusable products should be more mainstream,” said Caraco, explain that she feels kids are uneducated on pollution and its effects on future generations, as well as the future of the world. 

Could enlightening students on pollution help decrease this world-wide issue?

“In general, pollution is not good but straw pollution doesn’t affect my personal life,” stated Nate Dichiara, a sophomore football player at Lewis Mills.

            He thought it would be less of a problem if people just recycled, and that if people don’t try to end the pollution in the ocean it will increase the death rate for marine life.

However, Dichiara also said “I don’t think it’s one of the bigger things as a society we have to worry about.”

Dichiara continued to explain that the ocean is very large, and is teeming with marine life. People put things in the ocean because they don’t know where else to put it–they do so with little understanding that it will affect the future. When asked about the switch to eco-friendly straws he replied, “Depending on what type of material the straw is made from, I wouldn’t mind switching to non-plastic straws.”

UGA News Materials Institute conducted a study that showed microplastics were found in 100% of sea turtles tested. If people switch to metal, paper, or cornstarch straws, it will help decrease the pollution in the oceans as well as the rest of the world, studies concluded. It will even allow people to save money. Unfortunately, reusable items are not that accessible for everyone just yet. However, proponents believe that if they continue to fight for a change, these eco-friendly straws can help the future of the Earth and will become a staple in everyday life.