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The Last Straw?

Did you know we throw away 500 million plastic straws every day in the U.S.? Most of them make their way into our oceans. Editor Peter Geiger shares his thoughts on the growing problem and offers some easy solutions.

Until recently I never gave much thought to this scenario, have you? You go to a restaurant and ask for an iced water or soft drink and it arrives with a plastic straw. This is the way drinks are served in restaurants. It’s become routine. You don’t even have to ask. But, according to the Last Plastic Straw, 500 million single-use plastic straws are discarded every day, or 175 billion (with a B) per year. And that’s just in the U.S. alone. So do we really need a plastic drinking straw every time we take a sip of a beverage? Before you answer, consider the impact.

What happens to all this single-use plastic? Regrettably because they are so light, it is difficult to recycle plastic straws and consequently, many (along with other plastic items) find their way into the ocean and eventually into the bellies of whales and other aquatic life who think the floating debris is food. The video circulating on the internet of the sea turtle trying to get a plastic straw extracted from his nose is hard to watch.

I grew up as fast food restaurants were starting. The move from fine dining to fast food has only exacerbated the use of plastic straws. Because you can’t take that double chocolate mocha latte with caramel drizzle to go without a plastic straw. Not to mention the plastic cup and lid.

Finding Plastic Straw Alternatives

I am a firm believer that millennials will be the group that will help us transitions away from single-use plastic products and find a viable solution to what is a worldwide problem. Members of my staff have been leading the charge locally to not ask for straws, to raise awareness among friends, and to call on our favorite dining establishments to consider offering straws only upon request. That’s a reasonable request.

The good news is that many companies are beginning to turn the tide on plastic straws.

So What Can You Do?

Close up hand holding straw and woman say no for plastic drinking straw. Concept related to banned plastic drinking straws, environmental concerns. Problem of environmental pollution. Stop nature garbage, environment protection.

These suggestions are painless and can make an impact.

  • When ordering a beverage at a restaurant, say “no straw please.”
  • If a straw is a must, carry a reusable one.
  • If you insist on a straw, keep it when you order a refill rather than getting a new one.
  • Tell your friends about the growing problem.
  • I am told straws made out of dried pasta can be an alternative – check it out here.

What do you think? Do you have a thought or a solution for the single-use plastic products problem? Tell us in the comments below. For more information, or for more ideas, visit

Peter Geiger is the Editor of the Farmers' Almanac. Read his full biography.

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Drawbacks of drinking through a straw
Although drinking with a straw has some benefits, it also has potential downsides. This includes the following drawbacks:

Causes smoker’s lips

The act of using a straw requires you to pucker your lips. Over time, this can lead to lip wrinkles, also known as smoker’s lips.

The term “smoker’s lips” refers to wrinkles around the mouth due to prolonged cigarette smoking. It can also happen due to repeated use of a straw, which involves a similar lip movement.

Causes bloating and excess gas

When you place a straw in a drink, it captures some air. The air travels to your digestive tract, causing increased gas and bloating.

For this reason, avoiding straws is often recommended for reducing excess gas.

Stains your back teeth

Although straws might help reduce staining of your front teeth, it won’t prevent staining altogether.

The drink will still touch other teeth, leading to discoloration in these areas. Additionally, your front teeth can still stain if you place the straw in front of your teeth.


Keep up the good work of getting the word out! The worst information gets forced us- & issues like this need to be in our faces! Can’t help but remember when “the country” embraced litter campaign. We were inundated with public-service messages. MOST from that era remember the Native American with one lone tear falling out of sadness of people trashing our country! No campaign like it since that I remember!


I grew up in the 50s and 60s. We didn’t go to fast food restaurants very often; but, when we did, we were given paper straws to use with our drinks.

I’m not sure I believe that most straws end up in the ocean, though. Even those so-called disposable plastic straws can be cleaned and reused. Keep a supply of pipe cleaners on hand. You can find them at most craft stores.

Green Dragon

I call BS on most of the straws going to the ocean. Landfills are more like it. Perhaps the garbage trucks on the liberal east and west coasts dump their garbage into the ocean, but I doubt that the straws from the “Flyover States” migrate their way to the ocean. Sigh! if you were not such a drama queen over this, people would pay more attention.

Susan Higgins

Green Dragon, we don’t make this information up. If you need to fact check us on it, there are many resources out there devoted to this very pollution problem.

Bob Herndon

I very seldom use straws and when I do, they go into the plastic recycle bin. However the statement, “most of them go into our oceans” is a little dramatic and inaccurate. Most probably go into our landfills or on the sides of our roads. Most people don’t go out of their way to throw it into a creek or river.


why use straws any way?


The reason for plastic straws is simple, $$$. Plastic straws were cheaper than the paper straws we once had that were wax coated to last long enough to finish a drink without going limp. So an alternative is a great idea. But, at what cost? Not sure who will develop the next cheap alternative with the decline of interest in the sciences in the USA. Obviously the material needs to be biodegradable. The other obvious thought is better care in disposing of the current plastic items. Here’s a thought if most of the current liquid containers are wax coated why can’t straws be made from the same material.

Susan Higgins

Hi Daryl, having a reusable straw seems to be a better answer. Bring your own with you. It doesn’t have to be disposable. Single use items made out of a material that was invented to last forever was not a smart move.


Glass straws- more durable than you think- are inexpensive- easy to clean & sanitize. Your article reminded me to request no straw & carry my own! 👍🏾

Susan Higgins

Excellent, BY-D!

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