Leeds, UK — Britain’s pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants get through tens of millions of plastic drinking straws every year, with the huge majority of them going to landfill. That’s a statistic which angers one national waste and recycling company, which says they are hugely damaging to the environment.
According to England’s waste management company BusinessWaste.co.uk, the plastic in single-use drinking straws takes centuries to decompose, causing problems both at land and at sea where plastic debris is a menace to life. “A plastic straw has a lifespan of around 20 minutes, and then it’s thrown away,” says BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall. “More often than not, it ends up in general waste and landfill.”
Where recycling facilities exist, most pubs and bars don’t bother separating out used straws because it’s a fiddly job, and they’ve been in the mouth of a complete stranger. They’re invariably thrown straight into the bin and several centuries of being buried in the ground. “It’s an immense waste of resources, and there are alternatives that anybody can use“, argues Hall. “And while we’re here, the same goes for the little paper-plastic umbrella in your cocktail. They rank with Christmas cracker treats as the most pointless invention known to man.”
The simple solution: Single-use drinking straws should be treated the same as single-use plastic bags. “Charge 5p per plastic straw, and we’ll see their use plummet,” supposes Mark Hall. Naturally, the money raised goes to charity in the same way that plastic bag fees are collected, BusinessWaste.co.uk says, and the same charge applies equally to pubs, restaurants and – of course – the fast food industry.
It’s an idea that’s got some traction – a parliamentary petition closed recently with over 3,000 signatures, so with the right kind of publicity, it could easily become an issue that will attract widespread public support. “We’d love to see the plastic drinking straw phased out completely within the next couple of years,” says Business Waste’s Mark Hall, “That’s an ambitious timescale, but one that is certainly achievable.”
“They are pretty much the ultimate in human wastefulness, and a problem that can so easily be solved with very little effort. We don’t need to invent anything new. We don’t need to invest money in more advanced products. We just need to change our way of thinking,” Hall is sure.