The plastic straw is a simple invention with relatively modest value: for a few moments, the device helps make beverages easier to drink. And then, due to reasons of sanitation and ease of use, the straws are thrown away, never to be seen again.
Except, of course, the straw you use in your iced coffee doesn’t biodegrade and stays around basically forever, often as ocean junk. That, understandably, is leading to chatter around banning plastic straws, because of how much damage they do to the environment.
While there is no global movement to ban straws afoot just yet, maybe we should all start thinking about it, because the problem with straws is one of scale. According to National Geographic, the world uses over 500,000,000 straws every single day; which is more than one per person daily.
The resulting waste is difficult to recycle and often shows up in landfills, at sea, and on the beach (where it is particularly dangerous for marine wildlife).
But it wasn’t always this way. The modern day-straw was an attempt to solve the failings of a device that was very much biodegradable. And that replacement was itself biodegradable. The problem is what came after.