If we want to keep eating shrimp and crawfish, we’d better get used to lattes, without straws. Those innocent-looking drink cylinders are absurdly toxic for marine wildlife, and our campus, from Starbucks to Chick-fil-A, is littered with them. If students stopped using straws, we’d be making the ocean a better place for all marine life.
According to Ocean Crusaders, around 100 million marine animals are killed by plastic each year. It’s a horrifying massacre, and because the death is silent and the ocean doesn’t scream, we are not always aware of the loss.
Around 500 million straws a day are used in America, according to the National Park Service, and most of them end up in the ocean. Going strawless is a very small lifestyle change, but it can create substantial change in pollution reduction.
As college students, the changes we make now to become more eco-friendly mean the difference between having an inhabitable planet or not in the very near future. There are 100 million tons of plastic in the world’s oceans right now, according to National Geographic. There are mountains of plastic, and coral reefs are dying at an unprecedented rate. We are nearing a point of no return.
So guys, let’s do this one thing and get rid of straws on our campus. It’s really not going to make a difference to the vast majority of us, and for the die-hard straw fanatics, if they exist, there are alternatives. Plastic straws can be replaced with straws made of bamboo or paper. For the fancy straw consumer, stainless steel straws can be purchased, along with cases to carry them in. Even lids designed for drinking without straws are being made.
Taking measures against other microplastics and plastics would also help us keep ocean life alive for longer. Microplastics, tiny pieces of degraded plastic, are caused mainly by degraded plastic trash and microbeads, which are tiny plastic beads found in thousands of different products, like mouthwash and toothpaste.
There were five trillion particles of microplastics found in the ocean. When marine life in the forms of plankton, shellfish and thousands of other minute organisms consume microplastics, they sicken and even die from starvation.
Besides obvious types of ocean trash, like plastic bags and plastic shampoo bottles, we also need to examine sneakier pollution factors, by which I mean glitter.
Ahem. Glitter is evil. It looks great and it’s really fun to use, but it’s a huge contributor to microplastics in the ocean. The sparkles in your eyeshadow and the confetti at your party will never degrade. Five hundred years after you rinse it off or clean it up, it will still be bobbing along in the ocean waves, and we will be responsible for mass extinction.
We have to reduce our plastic use in whatever ways we can. At LSU, the least we can do is get rid of straws.
Rachel Mipro is a 19-year-old mass communication sophomore from New Orleans, Louisiana.