Are Plastic Straws Recyclable?
[How to Properly Recycle & Dispose Plastic Straws]
Read below for a tip on how to recycle your plastic straws
Why are Plastic Straws bad anyway?
Plastic straws become a big problem after they are thrown out. The world uses a lot of plastic straws, and many of these end up in landfills or polluting the environment.
Last year, Americans bought an estimated 390 million plastic straws each day. That amounts to about 142 billion straws per year!
To make matters worse, plastic straws do not biodegrade. Instead, they continue to degrade (break down) into smaller and smaller pieces. These tiny fragments of plastic are known as microplastics.
Microplastics can be harmful to marine life, and they stay in our oceans and ecosystems forever.
Why can’t Plastic Straws be Recycled?
Plastic straws are made out of type 5 plastic, also known as polypropylene.
Although polypropylene can be recycled, most recycling facilities do not accept plastic straws. Straws are small and flexible, and can fall between the cracks of machinery, or get stuck in machinery. Therefore, they usually do not get recycled.
There is a special trick that you can use to get them recycled, as you’ll see below.
How to Properly Recycle Plastic Straws (Easily)
If your city does not have the ability to recycle plastic straws, then you can use this trick to get them recycled properly.
Here are the details:
Instead of directly placing plastic straws in the recycling bin, put them first into a larger container that is also made out of polypropylene, or type 5 plastic.
This way, the plastic straws stored in the larger polypropylene container won’t get caught in recycling machinery. Therefore, they will get recycled with other pieces of polypropylene.
Some examples of type 5 plastic containers that straws can be placed into include plastic take-out containers, microwavable plastic containers, and margarine tubs or other similar containers.
To check if your container is the proper type, just check for the recycling label. Type 5 plastic (polypropylene) will be marked with a number 5 inside the recycling symbol. The image below illustrates this symbol:
This method isn’t foolproof, however.
Although this method means that plastic straws can be recycled by recycling machinery and recyclers, it doesn’t mean that the plastic will be recycled.
What do I mean by this?
Well you see, there is very little demand for recycled polypropylene, as it is worth very little, and it is very cheap to manufacture.
As a result, not many recyclers will recycle all the type 5 plastic that they receive. It just doesn’t make sense financially. In the end, some of the plastic will end up in landfills, even if it could have been recycled.
The bottom line?
Recycling isn’t the best option if you want to help solve this plastic straw problem. Below, you’ll find two ways of tackling this straws problem that are even better than recycling.
Hint: It will involve simply not using a plastic straw!
Other (Better) ways to Solve the Plastic Straws Problem
1. Drink without a straw
The easiest way to counter this plastic straw problem is to just reduce your usage of plastic straws or stop using them entirely.
Plastic straws are a non-essential item for most people. Think about it… do you really need that plastic straw to drink, or can you just drink directly from the cup?
For most people, it’s a simple change that makes a pretty big difference. Just stop using plastic straws in the first place, and you won’t have the problem of disposing of them!
For example, you can start off by requesting for your drink without a straw at restaurants. Restaurants usually give out straws automatically with your drink, so it’s important that you ask before you order your drink.
This is the simplest way to solve the straw problem. Simply drink from a cup directly, without a plastic straw!
2. Use reusable alternatives to plastic straws
Some people prefer to drink their beverage using a straw. If so, there are many biodegradable or reusable straw options to choose from, instead of using plastic ones.
For example, you can buy reusable glass or stainless-steel straws that can be used over and over again. Most will also come with cleaning brushes when you buy them, so it’s super easy to clean.
While reusable straws are good options for individuals, it would be complicated for restaurants to serve reusable straws. The best solution for restaurants who still want to serve straws is to use biodegradable paper straws.
Properly made paper straws don’t rip or fall apart easily when placed into a liquid. And, they can be bought relatively cheaply, although they are still more expensive than plastic straws.
If restaurants insist on keeping with the tradition of serving straws, then the most environmentally friendly option is to use paper straws instead of plastic ones.
The bottom line?
For most of us, plastic straws are a useless accessory in our lives. For others, their well-being depends on plastic straws. For those of us who can, we should try to limit our use of single-use plastic as much as possible.
The Evolution of Straw Manufacturing
Believe it or not, straws have been around since 3000 B.C., when Sumerians used them to sip beer from jars. These straws were made of gold, but eventually rye grass was used, and then paper. Paper was the material of choice until the early 1960s, but plastic was found to be a more durable material, especially for new designs like bendy straws.
Today’s straws are made of polypropylene, a resin of plastic known by the number 5 in the resin identification code. Polypropylene itself is a highly recyclable plastic resin, commonly used in yogurt containers, bottle caps, toothbrushes and plastic utensils. But recyclers are usually cautious about the types of polypropylene they accept, and straws will rarely be accepted with other forms of polypropylene.
23 Practical Ways To Reuse Disposable Straws
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