Letter to the Editor: Making The Switch

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Bon Appetit, DePauw’s catering service, made the switch to paper straws this year in an effort to reduce their plastic waste in facilities across the nation. Why?

Paper straws have the edge on plastic straws for one crucial reason: they are biodegradable. This means that if a paper straw ends up in the ocean, it will begin to break down in as little as 3 days. If a plastic straw ends up in the ocean, it can take as long as 200 years for the straw to decompose, according to Rubicon Global. Along the same lines, paper straws decompose faster in landfills than plastic straws do. In a similar phenomenon with ocean pollution, paper straws will decompose within a couple years, while plastic straws may take decades to centuries to decompose. This proves a problem as our landfills continue to fill with single-use plastics and plastic pollution contaminates our oceans.

Switching to paper straws at the very least reduces the single-use plastic waste; however, how much are we really saving by using paper instead of plastic? According to Bloomberg News, it is estimated that plastic straws only account for 0.03 percent of global plastic waste. Furthermore, regardless of whether the straw is paper or plastic, neither are typically accepted by recycling facilities, so they still end up in landfills. All things considered, it is important to recognize that moving away from plastic straws is only the tip of the iceberg in plastic waste reduction and ocean conservation. It is important to remember that the most sustainable position to take is to skip single use straws altogether and just sip rather than slurp!

Authors: Akane Inoue, Sofia Atkinson, Collin Davidson