Say ‘no’ to plastic straws

Temple should ban plastic straws, which are harmful to the environment.

October 7, 2008: Main Campus was nearly spotless, but the areas of North Philadelphia surrounding campus were soiled with litter. Students often added to the off-campus clutter. | THE TEMPLE NEWS ARCHIVES

The last time you went out to eat, get coffee or have drinks with friends, you probably used a plastic straw for the short length of time it took you to finish your drink. It’s a common practice with hidden dangers.

Plastic straws have been polluting our oceans and harming marine life for years. These straws are rarely recycled and they’re not biodegradable because of chemicals in the plastic.

The Washington Post reported that if our current straw usage continues, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. We can’t allow ourselves to continue destroying the environment we share with other living creatures.

The environmentalist in me got so tired of adding to the single-use plastic utensil pollution, I started carrying around my own reusable straw. I don’t take straws from coffee shops, and I always ask my servers to refrain from bringing a straw to my table.

#RefusetheStraw is an online movement that encourages people to avoid using plastic straws in an effort to keep oceans clean. Straw-refusers are making the promise to consume their drinks without an unnecessary plastic straw. This is a simple way to reduce the 500 million plastic straws used each day in America.

The Seattle Times reported last month that Seattle plans to ban plastic straws and utensils by July 2018, replacing them with recyclable products. Cities around the country including Miami, Berkeley, California and Asbury Park, New Jersey, have also begun considering or already implemented plastic straw limitations.

Temple should participate in the #RefusetheStraw campaign by banning plastic straws from dining halls. We can make a large impact on our environment — because the slight convenience straws add hardly negates the negative impacts they have on the environment, marine life and human health.

“It has to start at a grassroots level,” said Emily Cupo, former president of Students for Environmental Action. “Everyone just has to start caring a lot more and wake up.”

Some local bars and restaurants have already taken steps to eliminate plastic straw use. The Franklin Fountain, Peddler Coffee and Doobies Bar all use compostable or paper straws.

Cupo has been refusing plastic straws for two years. Paper straws are a much better alternative, she said.

“[Paper] is organic material,” Cupo said. “[It comes from] trees and that’s able to break down super easily. Plastic is made chemically, and those chemicals are meant to not break down.”

A 2010 study by Arizona State University found the chemicals used in making plastic end up in our bloodstream and urine. Having these chemicals in our bodies could lead to birth defects, a weakened immune system and other health issues.

Temple puts some effort into environmental practices on campus. Emily Cornuet, the waste minimization specialist at the Office of Sustainability, said the university composts waste from the Student Center and Johnson and Hardwick cafeteria at Two Particular Acres farm in Montgomery County.

I’m glad the university composts waste, but banning plastic straws altogether should be the next step Temple takes to further environmental justice.

Cornuet said the Office of Sustainability requested Aramark’s contract with the university enforced using compostable utensils. But this request was not successful.

According to the Seattle Times, paper and compostable straws cost about eight cents more than plastic straws. But the benefits of paper straws outweigh the minor cost increase.

“Plastic…and the way it leaches is really harmful to us and the environment,” Cupo said. “Animals eat it, we eat the animals, so the chemicals in us just keep going.”

By limiting the amount of plastic wasted, we have a better chance of keeping students healthy while conserving our oceans.

Students, I challenge you to help save our oceans and marine life. Join me in taking the pledge to stop using plastic straws by refusing them at restaurants or carrying around your own reusable straw.

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