Plastic straws have risen, or should I say 'plummeted' to near-infamy in the last few years. It seems that if you don’t have your own nifty, reusable straw of sorts on the ready then you're more than deserving of a side-eye or seven.
Plastic straws, much like plastic bags, have earned their bad rap for, first and foremost, being single-use plastic. Not only that but these items are used in extremely high volumes across the globe (In the USA alone, a whopping 390 million plastic drinking straws are purchased every day) which is only made more alarming by the fact that plastic straws are not biodegradable. Their durability and frequency of use have made them huge offenders in land and sea pollution with dire environmental impact.
Plastic straws are made from type 5 plastic, polypropylene, and most recycling facilities deem these tiny, bendy objects as a hazard for their processing machinery and will not accept them individually. This is why plastic straws, more often than not, are not recycled and end up in landfills or our beloved ocean.
Of course, I’m all for moving away from single-use plastics and grooming into one’s life a set of behaviors and, with those, products, that help us align our morals and eco-driven goals with our actions. However, this desire to think, act, and behave in accordance with our new planet-saving desires is a journey and, take it from me, an imperfect one.
You might still have a pack of jumbo-pack straws stowed away in your party drawer or find yourself automatically opting for the straw option by default.
Good thing you can dispose of plastic straws in a way that keeps you in the environment's good books. As with most things on this zero-waste journey, my go-to solution when at a crossroads is creativity and practicality.
Here are my favorite practical and creative ways to dispense of and recycle plastic straws.
You might be like “wait- I thought we couldn’t recycle straws, Leslie! Make up your damn mind”. Well, I implied it was tricky but not impossible. You can’t recycle straws individually but you can recycle the bigger plastic that they fit into (maniacal Disney villain laughter).
Well, think of the principle of an eco-brick and apply it here. The only rules are that the plastic container into which you place the straws has to be made from the same type of plastics as the straws (type 5). Most takeaway and margarine/butter tubs are made from this plastic but you can make double sure by checking for a number at the bottom of the plastic item you’re thinking of using.
Simply rinse out the container, let it dry thoroughly. You can now either keep the container to one side and slowly use it to dispose of straws as you use them or you dispose of plastic straws in bulk you’re looking to get rid of. Once the container is full, carefully seal it, and place it into the recycling bin but only if you are sure that your local city waste management collects type 5 plastics otherwise you’ll have to pop into your local recycling center and dispose of them there.
We’ve all been there: battling what feels like Medusa's committee of snakes trying to find the source we need in a cluster of cables. I particularly struggle with this at the back of my TV which has a myriad of cables and, before this clever straw trick, absolutely zero attempts at organization. Turns out, an easy way to recycle plastic straws is to turn them into cable labels.
Divide your straw into quarters visually or using a marker. It’s important to not cut the straws before you label them to make the writing process easier. You’ll need two labels per cable so, since you can fit four labels on a single straw, each straw can hold four labels that’ll be used across two cables. It’s important to write a label that’ll help you clearly identify each cable (e.g. HDMI or Sound).
Once you have your 2x labels per cable you can cut each straw along the non-marked back and wrap them around their prescribed cable, one where it plugs into the wall and one where it plugs into your electronic device. Lastly, seal the cut straw along the previously cut edges to secure it around the cable, and voila- your future self officially loves you!
Now, I love a good tutorial, and thankfully, the internet is a wealth of how-tos and DIY walkthroughs. There are a seemingly endless amount of craft projects you can do with straws but some are very time-consuming with an end result that scores low on the practical side. I am very guarded against making things that aren't functional as they, in my experience, can often lead to things being thrown away once the gimmick wears off.
Plants are in, darling, which is why these plastic straws turned air planters are where it's at. You can use your preference in paint or spruce them up with decorations but they're easy to make and brighten up any space with a little greenery. I love that what was destined for a landfill can be turned into a nature-holding piece of decor. Ha! Take that pollution!
I love that upcycling projects can be a creative means to properly dispose of plastic. A plastic straw is not only malleable but easy to cut and manipulate. This makes them excellent for sculpting and tuning into bead-like materials that you can turn into organic, geometric shapes.
After a little practice, I was soon making plastic straw mobiles and light fittings which not only filled my home but made for beautiful, zero-waste gifts that I could embellish and decorate as I wished.
Since plastic straws are single-use plastic, used in the billions across the globe each day, and non-biodegradable, they are major land and sea pollutants. Plastic straws have had a seriously negative effect on the environment which is why plastic-free alternatives such as bamboo and metal straws as well as learning how to effectively recycle and get rid of plastic straws are important.
Yes- but it takes a little work so most people classify plastic straws as non-recyclable. Plastic straws are often rejected from recycling faculties because their size and volume often see them getting caught in the valuable processing machinery. By simply placing plastic straws into a recyclable plastic container made from the same type 5 plastic, you can recycle your straws without any fuss or possible damage.
How your plastic straws come to get recycled is a personal choice and one in which you have options. There is the more practical option of recycling them as mentioned above but one can also get creative and turn plastic straws into something useful or artistic in the home.
Plastic straws are downright evil in the zero-waste world but ONLY when they're not disposed of correctly. While some areas have seen an uptick in reusable straws (metal straws being most common) and paper straws, we're a long way away from industries like fast-food chains doing away with single-use plastics across the country, it's up to individuals to dispose of, recycle, or reuse their plastic straws in a way that keeps them out of landfills and the ocean.
Whether you use an eco-bricking format to dispose of straws in a way that makes them accepted by recycling facilities or opt for a more creative, upcycling approach, your choices around plastic and waste disposal can quite literally save lives.
Happy, eco-friendly slurping, friends.