Paper straws have seen an upsurge in demand as the environmentally damaging plastic straw becomes illegal to sell in the UK.
As of October 1st 2020 single use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds have been banned in the UK and will not be available to purchase from this day forward. Environmental campaigners and activists have welcomed the changes and remains a massive step in the right direction. However, the reality is that we are just scratching the surface.
The fight for the environment has been at the forefront of many peoples lives in recent years, with David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg leading the parade with their engaging documentaries and powerful speeches, educating the world on climate change. The world is slowly coming around to the idea that change is necessary and incredibly important if we are to protect our planet and secure a positive future for our children. But talking about it is one thing and actually doing something about it is another. It is refreshing to actually see some changes being implemented from the government in order to enforce change and push consumer behaviour in an environmentally conscious direction.
We have previously witnessed changes occur within our supermarkets whereby a 5p plastic bag charge was introduced in an attempt to discourage customers from instinctively using a plastic bag every time they went to the shop. This tiny change to the way we operate has observed a 95% decrease in plastic bag usage across the country – result!
So what alternatives do we have?
Instead of plastic straws we now have the option of using paper straws which still effectively do the same job but without the knock-on, everlasting harmful impact to the environment after their disposal. Paper straws as their name suggests, are manufactured from paper derived from trees which when handled in the correct manner, is a renewable resource. Furthermore, if a paper straw ends up in the ocean after being disposed of by the end user, it will decompose and fall to pieces in a much shorter time frame than their plastic predecessors. That’s not to say that paper straws don’t have their drawbacks, however, given that plastic doesn’t decompose for thousands of years and causes devastating harm to marine life when accidentally consumed, paper straws are a far safer and less harmful alternative.
With the current coronavirus epidemic, the Food Packaging Association has announced that there is a far greater risk of cross contamination and potential infection by utilising reusables. This is particularly prudent within the food and beverage industry as consumer activities regarding reusables are not protected by the food safety legislation and inspection systems which apply across the rest of food production.
Like with many things in life, there is the need for balance. As a society we need to continue the environmental struggle and reduce the amount of harmful waste released into the environment. At the same time we also need to maintain public safety and prevent the spread of infection between social groups. Single use disposables seem to be the most effective way of ensuring public safety, after all, that is how the paper cup came into being in the first place. The least we can do is find the most environmentally conscious balance which in the case of plastic vs. paper – Paper wins every time.