by Aimée Vassallo
Drinking straws are used everywhere, from coffee shops to your own home. The first known straws were made by the Sumerians as far back as 3000 BCE and they have been used ever since.
The most popular straws are the coloured bendy ones that are made from plastic. They have been around us since after World War 2 because the material was quite cheap. But these straws cause damage to our environment since they aren’t eco-friendly.
Why are plastic straws so bad?
Nowadays, around the world more plastic is being used per year than when it was first produced. Let’s look at some numbers! 91% of plastic produced is only used once. Plastic straws take 10 minutes to manufacture and they are used for about 20 minutes until our drink is finished. They are the 10th most common type of litter found on the beach. If we keep using plastic straws, 99% of birds will have plastic in their stomach by the year 2050. In Malta 37 million plastic straws are used per year in just catering venues. If we don’t take action now, there will be more plastic straws than fish in the ocean!
Why should we use bamboo straws instead of plastic ones?
In recent years, the world has seen the introduction of bamboo straws. But what is bamboo? Bamboo is a type of grass that can grow up to 1 metre in 24 hours. There are more than 1000 species of bamboo in the world. Every part of the bamboo plant can be used for making different products.
A lot of people are using bamboo straws. They are an alternative to plastic. Bamboo straws are 100% natural and reusable for a long period of time. The straws are made from whole bamboo stalks without anything being processed. Plastic straws take 200 years to break down into small particles that end up in our oceans whereas bamboo straws are completely biodegradable in the environment.
How about Malta?
Malta is also doing its part for the environment. Companies are importing bamboo straws and selling them to the public as an alternative to plastic ones. One such company, Rebel with a Cause has been at work for about 16 months. According to the company’s representative Darren Borg who spoke to me in an interview, “a lot of people are trying bamboo straws, yet many more are unfortunately still using plastic ones”.
Bali Life Bamboo Straws has been running for 3 years and the business has distributed over 300,000 bamboo straws globally. The company wanted to find something that replaced the one-use plastic straw and found reusable straws in a remote village in Bali. In my interview with Dana Carmont from Bali Life Bamboo Straws, she said, “We realised these would be the perfect replacement for plastic straws and would help the environment. So now it’s about educating those to say no to plastic straws, use no straw or use a reusable straw.”
The bad side of bamboo
Bamboo straws can still hurt the environment and affect our lives. Think about the poor giant pandas! If we use bamboo for everything from straws to toothbrushes, combs, cotton buds and cutlery, the giant pandas will lose their habitat and their food. Bamboo produces 30% more oxygen than trees. When someday in the not so distant future, most of the trees around us would be cut down to make way for more and more buildings, we wouldn’t have enough oxygen. We would then resort to bamboo for all our oxygen needs. If all our bamboo is destroyed now for providing us with silly straws, who knows what will happen in more than 50 years’ time?
So when you’re about to get a drink, think again! Stop using a straw, be it plastic or bamboo – go strawless!