It is a common misconception that plastic straws are universally recyclable. Plastic straws are not biodegradable and therefore pollute the environment.
With over 500,000 straws used every day in the US and over a billion discarded each year, plastic straws are a big problem.
So, how do you safely dispose of your plastic straws?
Disposing of your plastic straws isn’t just a landfill issue but an issue for all animals, even ones humans eat.
Unfortunately, plastic straws are made from polypropylene, a number 5 plastic, like butter containers and particular takeout containers.
It means that a lot of recycling facilities do not accept plastic straws. Therefore, the proper ways to dispose of plastic straws vary depending on your recycling facility.
The best way to dispose of plastic straws is to reuse them for various projects or drinks. If your local recycling center accepts number 5 plastics, then you should have no issue.
If not, you may have to drive to an independent center to dispose of them properly.
Inorganic materials like plastic number 5 are tough to recycle. Very few places take the polypropylene-created material.
Number 5 plastic refers to the resin identification code, which tells users what kind of plastic they are interacting with.
It is hard and heat resistant, often used for prescription bottles, single-use cutlery, and straws.
Though number 5 plastics are recyclable, the cost of recycling them sometimes outstrips communities.
Not all communities can afford to recycle these types of plastics. Rural areas are infamous for this.
The major problem with recycling straws is the availability of recycling centers. As we said, number 5 plastics are very durable and therefore take more effort to recycle.
This effort is doubly so for straws since they are small and can get into the gears and cogs of the machine that is doing the recycling!
It is an essential but often overlooked factor of recycling straws.
We all know that single-use plastics are a massive problem worldwide, and there is no reasonable way to dispose of them. Even burning them is toxic!
The worst mistake you can make is disposing of them in the garbage, which is most common in the US.
If you are not used to recycling, you would not think twice about this, but it is essential to understand that it negatively impacts the environment.
Disposal Options for Plastic Straws
There are various options for disposing of these types of straws, despite misconceptions.
Recycling and reusing straws are great options but outright replacing single-use plastic straws is the best answer for this crisis.
We’ll discuss how we can recycle and reuse straws and how you can go about this responsibly and consciously.
As we’ve said, number 5 plastic recycling isn’t available everywhere. Get hold of your recycling center to see if they accept them.
If they do, then there is a proper way to recycle them. Here’s a guide.
- Save other more significant number 5 plastic containers and after using the straw, put them in a larger container.
- After this larger container is full, cap it and place it in your recycling bin.
Note: Doing this will prevent straws from escaping to gum up the machine at the recycling center accidentally.
It will also prevent the plastic straw from “escaping” into the environment.
Make sure to collect multiple number 5 plastic containers, so you always have one for the straws.
If your straws are too large for your containers, cutting them is perfectly acceptable.
If your recycling center doesn’t collect number 5 plastics, you will have to drop them off at a recycling center that does.
Hopefully, your nearest center isn’t far away.
Reusing something may seem unappealing, but you can wash plastic straws like your other dishes in soapy water.
Eventually, the integrity of the plastic will break down, and then you will have no choice but to recycle them properly.
You can also make labels for your electronic chords. Cutting one side of the straw and labeling them with a sharpie to enclose your chords is great for organization.
You can quickly tell the difference between your TV, PC, Cable, and other electronic plugs.
Another great way to reuse plastic straws is to create craft items. Candleholder sleeves and hot gluing straws around the holder are a creative way to add flair to your table or shelves.
Both of these ideas are cheap decorations and are a perfect way to avoid polluting the environment.
You can create many things from straws, including:
- Plastic mosaic pieces of all shapes
- A straw-flower bouquet
- Picture frame decorations
We’ve all seen the photos of suffocating seabirds and sea turtles, bodies, and shells so full of plastic it makes your stomach turn.
These images are powerful, but they are a genuine issue in our industrial world.
Turtles, fish, and all sea life are affected by plastic because the ocean is literally full of it. Large islands of floating plastic are the clearest visuals here.
However, very few people think of the straws and small, almost micro-sized bits of plastic that fill every inch of the oceans around the world.
This plastic not only kills wildlife but it affects fishing and commercial ventures.
The environments like coral reefs, which are becoming rarer, are being destroyed by plastics, as are the animals they support. Even the fish that humans consume is tainted with microplastics.
Single-use plastic, including straws, is a significant problem and cannot be understated. That is why it is essential to dispose of plastic straws properly.
Eliminating Plastic Straws (Some Alternatives)
Of course, the best way to dispose of plastic straws is to stop using them altogether.
Drinking from a cup or glass without a straw is the best way to ensure that they do not pollute the environment.
If a straw is needed for sanitary or medical reasons, there are options. These are environmentally friendly options that cost the same or less than plastic.
The best options adopted across Europe are steel straws and paper straws. However, glass straws are becoming just as popular in hot tourist destinations.
Keep in mind that reusable straws need to be cleaned with pipe-cleaners or very hot water. This step prevents bacterial growth.
The most popular metal straws are made of stainless steel. Slightly more expensive than other options, these are durable straws that will last.
You can purchase them online or at kitchen stores! Many companies, restaurants, and bars have already replaced plastic with metal straws.
This type of straw is most prevalent in Europe, particularly in hot environments where it is difficult to store and keep paper or glass options.
It is also a sanitary way to replace plastic straws.
You can clean stainless steel with soapy water and antibacterial boiling water. After the Covid-19 pandemic, stainless steel straws have taken off!
This type of straw is an excellent option for single-use straws. They are easily recyclable though they don’t last as long as the other options.
They are, however, the cheapest option, often made of cardboard or bio-degradable materials. They have become trendy in fast-food chains across the world.
Paper straws are convenient and can be recycled with all other paper materials, so it is the most popular option worldwide.
These are rarer but gaining in popularity across the world. Bamboo straws are durable and washable and, when needed, can be recycled like other organic materials.
Bamboo straws, like stainless steel, are available online in various brands. They are very durable and are cheaper than metal straws.
These are the most temperamental of the options as glass, though recyclable, is very fragile.
It can also be dangerous should it become chipped or broken.
However, glass straws are gaining momentum as they are ideal for cooler drinks. You can also wash them with boiling water for better sanitation methods.
They can also be more sanitary, much like the steel options. Their fragility sets them back when it comes to more mobile drinking options.
Plastic straws are dangerous for the environment because of the number 5 plastic they are made of.
If your recycling center accepts number 5 plastic, you should have no problems recycling them like your other plastics.
If not, taking them to a facility can be a pain and inconvenient. Therefore, the best way to dispose of plastic straws is to stop using them altogether.
Wildlife in the oceans and in rivers and lakes is in danger. Plastic straws are a waste since they are single-use and can be easily replaced with better options.
If you cannot repurpose plastic straws for decorating, organizing, or crafting products, it is best to switch to a more durable option.
The metal, bamboo, and glass options need a thorough cleaning. Doing this prevents the growth of bacteria.
The single-use paper straws are the best option for disposal as you can recycle them like other paper products, including cardboard.
With cheaper and more durable options, it is a simple switch that can significantly impact the world.
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