In our day-to-day lives, we use plastic more than we realize. For breakfast, you might head to Starbucks and grab an iced coffee to-go with a plastic straw. Later, a trip to the grocery store could leave you with plastic wrappers from food that you purchased and bags to carry it in. Sure, it's convenient, but the effects of plastic on the planet and your health aren't worth it.

Bubble Tea

ljguitar on Flickr

Grocery bags, pop bottles, and notably, plastic straws, all lead to harmful environmental consequences. Plastic straws are used and disposed of at alarming rates. For example, in the United States, 500 million straws are used every day. Here's why you should stop using plastic straws now before it's too late.

Why Should You Care?

A study conducted in 2010 revealed that 8,000,000 tons of plastic were thrown into the ocean. This number is only expected to rise in future years. To put this into perspective, a report from the World Economic Forum suggested that by 2050, oceans will be home to more plastic than fish. By then, plastic will be entering the ocean at a rate of four garbage truckloads per minute.

The plastic that ends up in our oceans is incredibly dangerous. Plastic can be thought of as a magnet, and a toxic one, because it attracts other chemicals and bacteria in the ocean waters. Plastic straws contain polypropylene and Bisphenol A (BPA), which both leach dangerous chemicals. If the plastic is left out in the heat, the effects of the chemicals are worsened.

Green Turtle  (Chelonia mydas) photo by Kris Mikael Krister (@kmkr) on Unsplash

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Plastic is also harmful to animals that inhabit the oceans. In 2015, a video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nostril went viral on YouTube. It is not only sea turtles that are affected—seals, sea lions, seabirds, fish, whales, and dolphins are all at risk as a result of plastic pollution in oceans. If you care about the cute animals that live in the ocean, you should try to stop using plastic straws.

Because plastic is designed to be extremely durable, it doesn't biodegrade. This means that the plastic straw that you drank from will outlive you by a lot. You might only use the straw for 10 minutes, but the majority of plastic takes nearly 500 years to decompose. Most plastic isn't recycled, which is why it either ends up in a landfill or an ocean. Seriously, let that sink in—the plastic straw you sipped on at a bar last night will be around far longer than you will.

What Can You Do?

Simple Elegance 8", 9",  10" on Flickr

Instead of using plastic straws, consider investing in a glass or stainless steel straw. That way, you can wash and reuse your straw. This is a small price to pay to reduce the amount of plastic that you use and help the environment. 

You can also take on the Last Plastic Straw challenge and join the movement to end the use of plastic straws. Next time you're at a restaurant or bar, remember to ask the wait staff not to include a straw in your drink. This could also start an interesting discussion with them and spread the message about plastic.

Cup of latte with straw photo by Thomas Vimare (@vimarethomas) on Unsplash

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It's never too late to stop using plastic straws. Drinking an iced coffee might be the best part of your day, but it will taste just as delicious without the toxic plastic straw.