REFUSE Plastic Straws!

reusable straw

There are lots of reasons to REFUSE plastic straws!

Did you know?

  • Most straws contain BPA, which is a harmful chemical that can affect brain and reproductive development. If fish and other marine animals ingest straws, those chemicals can also end up in our dinner!
  • Straws are not recyclable here in Dahab.
  • Like all plastics, straws photodegrade – they continue to break down into smaller and smaller pieces. They will always be on our planet.
  • Worldwide, straws are one of the Top 10 Most Commonly Found Items during beach clean-ups.

When I started on my journey to use less plastic, I admit straws were not high on my list of concerns. Mostly because we rarely eat at restaurants and when we do, I bring my own reusable water bottle. But occasionally I will join a friend for a drink at one of the many restaurants lining the shore here in Dahab. If that drink is tea or coffee, as it often is, no straw is necessary. That isn’t the case with my favorite order – fresh lemon juice, which I am quite happy to drink straight from a glass. I began to ask the waiters not to bring a straw with the juice, but it’s not always a successful strategy and I often end up with a straw anyway.

This happened one afternoon as I sat at a cafeteria with some friends and we began discussing whether or not we actually need a straw to enjoy our drinks of choice – sodas, juice, milkshakes, water. For me, the only drink I could think of that I would want a straw for was a milkshake, something that I haven’t even ordered for at least 5 years. One friend said only certain, more-pulpy juices called for a straw. Another said she likes straws when drinking sodas. I, of course, encouraged them to refuse the straws when they didn’t feel they needed them. Neither friend really pledged to follow through with this action, but at least we had discussed it. It was quite a serious conversation but somehow silly at the same time and I knew that at the first chance I got, I would buy them reusable straws!

Unfortunately, reusable straws are not available here in Egypt so I had to order them from America. I researched the many options – glass, stainless steel, bamboo – and was shocked by the varieties available! I finally decided on the simple stainless steel ones from Plastic Antidote, the official store of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. I asked a friend traveling from Germany to bring them in her suitcase for me. It’s been fun handing them out to several of my close friends, ones that I know will use them and engage others in conversations about them. It is my hope that if I can pull one of these straws from my bag when ordering a juice, the waiters will be more likely to understand my request to not bring me a plastic one.

Egypt produces a range of stainless steel products including dishes and cookware. We need to find a company willing to start producing reusable straws!

So until we have some available locally, please remember to ask your waiter to not give you a straw with your drink. Ask for a glass, if necessary, and drink straight from that.

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

 

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Disposable vs. Reusable

PLASTIC FACTS

Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide.

About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute.

A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade.

Plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down.

Every square mile of ocean has about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.

This blog focuses on reducing the amount of single-use or disposable plastic we use, the plastic that is manufactured so we can use it for a few minutes or even just a few seconds before we discard it or “throw it away”. I previously shared the Plastic Pollution Coalition’s “Basic Concepts of Plastic”, but it is something worth discussing again.

One of the biggest problems is that this plastic will NEVER go away. It will always be around in our environment. Plastic does not biodegrade; it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. Each and every piece of plastic ever made it still around today – somewhere, in some form.

Plastic never goes away.

And while it’s around, plastics leak toxic chemicals into our food, soil, and water causing illness and death in humans and wildlife. 

In terms of health risks, the evidence is growing that chemicals leached from plastics used in cooking and food/drink storage are harmful to human health. The most disturbing of these are hormone (endocrine) disrupters, such as Bisphenol A (BPA), which can stimulate the growth of cancer cells. Exposure to BPA at a young age can cause genetic damage, and BPA has been linked to recurrent miscarriage in women. The health risks of plastic are significantly amplified in children, whose immune and organ systems are developing and are more vulnerable.” Life Without Plastic

Reusable Plastics

In this blog, I often suggest replacing single-use plastics with reusable plastic containers. It is important to note, however, that recent research shows that some of the plastics we like to reuse also have health problems associated with them.

Read more:

Plastic-recyc-05

Plastic food containers are labeled with a number that indicates their type of plastic. The safest ones to REUSE are #2, 4, and 5 and you should AVOID reusing #3, 6, and 7. Taking a quick look at the boxes I reuse – dairy product containers made by Juhayna and some of the boxes that I’ve purchased – I noticed they are all #5. Unfortunately, not all of the reusable plastic boxes that I’ve purchased are labeled. 

Ideally though, we would all have glass, ceramic, or stainless steel containers to use. But we don’t. Read the articles linked above, do your own research, and then decide whether or not you want to use plastic at all for storing foods. If you want to avoid all plastic, you’ll have to find or invest in some other containers. You can REUSE the glass jars that olives, jam, etc. come in or check the second-hand markets in town and online. For me personally, for now I am using what I have – a range of plastic, glass, and stainless steel containers. I avoid the plastic containers for hot foods but perhaps need to rethink the use of the plastic containers in general.

So if you’re lucky enough to have some glass or stainless steel containers, that’s great! Please use them for food instead of reusable plastic ones. You’ll be protecting your health.

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

Basic Concepts about Plastic

Plastic is forever

Plastic creates toxic pollution at every stage of its existence: manufacture, use, and disposal. Plastic is a material that the Earth cannot digest. Every bit of plastic that has ever been created still exists, including the small amount that has been incinerated and has become toxic particulate matter.

Plastic poisons our food chain

In the environment, plastic breaks down into small particles that attract toxic chemicals. These particles are ingested by wildlife on land and in the ocean, contaminating the food chain.

Plastic affects human health

Harmful chemicals leached by plastics are present in the bloodstream and tissues of almost every one of us, including newborns.

Disposable plastics are the main source of plastic pollution

Consumption of disposable plastics—bags, bottles, straws and so forth—has spiraled out of control. These items are used for seconds, hours or days, but their remains last forever.

Plastic recycling is not a sustainable solution to the crisis

Most of our plastic waste is landfilled, downcycled, incinerated or exported to other countries. Recycling of plastic is costly and does not stem the production of virgin plastic product.

Plastic pollution is not only in the ocean

The amount of plastic pollution in the ocean is expanding at a catastrophic rate, but there are similar concentrations of plastic in the desert, in every community around the world, in our homes and in us.

::Taken from the Plastic Pollution Coalition’s website. Plastic Pollution Coalition is  a global alliance of individuals, organizations, businesses and policy-makers working toward a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on humans, animals and the environment. ::

Read – and share! – the Basic Concepts about Plastic in ARABIC.

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle