Do we really need to keep sucking?

Emma Cunningham By: Emma Cunningham
Date posted: 4 October 2018

A company in Manchester has become the first manufacturer in decades to make paper straws in the UK.

And whilst Sandra Pijper, the Technical Director of The Paper Straw Co, told the BBC the move was down to Blue Planet II and wanting to stop single-use plastic getting into our seas and washing up on beaches, are we in danger of just replacing one single-use item with another and adding to the litter crisis not solving it?

Emma Cunningham is the MCS Senior Clean Seas Advocate (Business) and she says we really don’t need straws – whatever they’re made of:

“We’ve been demanding the demise of the plastic straw ever since we’ve seen a rise in the number found on UK beaches during the Great British Beach Clean. Sometimes whole, often broken into small pieces, plastic straws are a choking hazard for all manner of marine wildlife. Just stop sucking was our message – although we absolutely recognise the need to have straws available for people with medical needs or toddlers in between the bottle and cup stage.

The UK is the biggest user of plastic straws in Europe, so it’s been brilliant to see so many high street big hitters announce a ban on giving them out unless specifically asked for. All Bar One, JD Wetherspoon, Costa Coffee, Pizza Express, Wagamama, Marriott International, London City Airport and Eurostar have all joined a heap of other companies who no longer hand out plastic straws just for the sake of it… whether you wanted one or not. The biggest breakthrough came in June when McDonald’s said they would ban plastic straws from all of its restaurants in the UK and Ireland beginning last month.

But swapping plastic straws for paper ones is not the answer. Even a paper straw should be the last resort.

As a marine conservation charity, we are interested in not just the plastic pollution that goes into our oceans but also the CO2 and temperature increases caused by over-consumption of the earth’s resources.

We want to see a reduction in all single use items. Fruit and veg with no packaging or popped into cloth bag not a paper bag. Just because an item is made of a natural material it isn’t acceptable to leave it behind… and that goes for paper straws too. If you’re out and about and use a paper straw, you may think it’s ok to dump it behind. But that’s littering – whatever the material.

And whilst I’m on the subject, can I just mention Starbucks and their straws. They’ve stopped handing out plastic straws and started selling flavoured paper straws… wrapped in plastic. Individually. Seriously?

That really is the last straw.”