Plastic Straw Pollution Facts

Updated: Apr 16, 2021

The fact is plastic straws are very popular in our daily life but in general, it has bad impact on the environment (especially marine life). In the US only, an estimated 500 million plastic straws are discharged every day and most of them end up in the oceans, polluting water and killing marine life. And there are more than 8.3 billion tonnes plastic straws located on the entire coastline of the world.

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In this article, we can learn about the pollution facts of plastic and how you can make a big difference just by rejecting the use of these straws and use alternative ones instead. Because if we don’t act now, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

1. Plastic Straws can’t be easily recyclable.

Only ~ 9% of plastics are recycled. That means 91% of them will be discharged to the nature.

Plastic straws are usually made of type 5 plastic or polypropylene. Although type 5 plastic can be recycled, it is not accepted by most roadside recycling programs.

The plastic straw is too light to pass a mechanical recycling sorter. They pass through sorting sieves and mix with other materials and are too small to separate, contaminating recycling loads, or be disposed of as garbage. When plastic straws are not recycled, they get buried for years and waterways leading to rivers and oceans, harming marine life.

2. Plastic straws are not biodegradable

To understand the environmental impact of straws, it is important to know the difference between biodegrading and degrading.

- Biodegrading is when an item can be naturally broken down and digested by micro-organisms, and then naturally recycled into new organic molecules and life.

- Degrading is just the process of breaking something down into smaller pieces. When plastic degrades, the bulk of the plastic will seem to disappear. However, in fact, the plastic is still here, just smaller pieces and survive for thousands of years.

Plastic straws take up to 200 years to degrade but never totally off the Earth. And this process can release toxic chemicals to wildlife and environment around it.

3. Always among top 10 items found in the ocean and coastline

Straws are currently the 8th most found ocean trash in cleanups by quantity (2019), making up about 3% of recovered trash. Because of bright color and small size, plastic straws are easily mistaken for food by fish and birds. Undigested plastic straws can clog the airways or destroy an organism's digestive system.

Each year, more than 100,000 marine animals and 1 million seabirds die from ingesting plastic straws, bags and plastic bottles. Researchers show that 99% of all sea bird species will have ingested plastic by the year of 2050.

4. People don’t really need plastic straws

Except for Disability People, Others really don’t need to drink by straws. Straws are items that can be easily replaced and left out of our lives.

Small actions can make a big difference. The simplest way to reduce plastic pollution is to reject using single-use plastics, like plastic straws. Even when you need straws, you can use alternative reusable eco-friendly straws like bamboo straws, metal straws or paper straws.

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Work Cited:

Krueger, Alyson. Do You Really Need a Straw With That? 7 Oct. 2019,

“Plastic Straws - The Environmental Impact - STOP IT NOW – Facts and Statistics.” VinaStraws, 21 Feb. 2020,

“Deadly Facts About Plastic Straws - NEWS ON GN.ORG.” GNation,

“Plastic Straw Ban I Facts & Figures.” Ourlaststraw Live,

“More than 8.3 Billion Tons of Plastics Made: Most Has Now Been Discarded.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 19 July 2017,