This growing reliance on plastic to fuel our “culture of convenience” is not without cost. Globally, an average of eight million tons of plastic escapes collection systems, winding up in the environment and eventually the ocean. Once there, sunlight and currents shred plastic debris into smaller particles called microplastics, which attract and concentrate toxic chemicals up the marine food chain and into our bodies. Recent studies estimate that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic by weight than fish in the ocean. Plastic acts as a toxic conveyor belt, sponging pollutants from surrounding air and water into the tissues of everything that eats it.
From plankton to fish, and to humans that eat seafood, plastic pollution is changing the very chemistry of life. Much of the problem stems from the use of plastic a material essentially designed to last forever for applications such as disposable shopping bags and coffee cups, products that are designed to be used for a few minutes and then thrown away.
Plastic straws and coffee lids are common throughout our environment. Like bottle caps, plastic straws and coffee lids float, which threatens wildlife and contributes to the growing ocean plastic epidemic.
Furthermore, coffee and beverage cup lids are another high-pollution item. Coffee lids are typically made from polystyrene; styrene, a primary component of polystyrene, is a suspected human carcinogen, and is shown to leach from products into food or beverages.
The best alternative would be to substitute these non-biodegradable straws and lids with a biodegradable straw or lid but more importantly revamp the whole coffee cup plus the lid and straw to wooden ones thus, Biodegradable straws, coffee cups and lids.
Think cost-effective. Serving drinks with wooden bamboo cups and straws might be costly, but it’s a one-time investment. Furthermore, disposable straws run out quickly and need constant replacement. If you are an established business, you might be able to save more by investing in straws that will last, rather than spending repeatedly on disposables every week or month.
From our analysis, we believe there are five core strategies that can help us become more innovative to solve plastic pollution now:
REDUCE: Drastically reduce the use of plastic for single-use disposable products and packaging. It makes no sense to use a material designed to last forever for a product that’s designed to last a few minutes.
REDESIGN: Shift design away from harmful plastics toward a) providing the goods or services in ways that don’t use packaging at all, b) substituting with bio benign materials made from sustainable materials like wood or glass, and c) designing products and packaging for end-of-life, including opportunities for reuse before material recovery for remanufacture.
REUSE & RECYCLE: Scale and replicate Zero Waste reuse, recycling and composting policies and strategies funded in part by the companies that put products into the market in the first place.
REIMAGINE: We are hard at work designing the materials of the 21st century that can provide for humanity’s needs without causing harm. We need to be supported through investment and adoption.
RETHINK PROGRESS: Shift consciousness to replace the “throw-away society” with a culture of stewardship that questions the role of plastic in our economy and seeks to transition to a Zero Waste future.