To Straw or Not to Straw

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By Connor McLaughlin

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 6 of VARSITY.


The debate of the use of single-use plastic straws has begun to rise in recent months thanks to global efforts by plastic-free initiatives and campaigns by environmental activists. More awareness has been brought to the effects on the environment and animal life by single plastics. No matter what anyone believed before, it has now become clear that if we as a species do not cut down on our single-use waste, the world we know will become a lot less colourful and diverse in animal and plant life.


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It’s easy to blame the wastage on the big corporations and chains for their supply of plastic straws, but the reality is that they are merely supplying what we as consumers demand. The more we buy our drinks in plastic cups at the movies or open a straw at a restaurant solely for convenience, the more we encourage those big corporations to continue their supply. Plastic straws are cheap and easy to make, which make them attractive to cafés, restaurants and shops in regard to stocking them for customers looking for a straw. They’re convenient and always readily available and so we often grab one and throw it away without a passing thought.


Now, plastic straws do serve a place in society. Many patrons with disabilities are not able to utilise reusable straws due to it being unable to bend to reach their mouths, or from the risk of breaking while being used to drink with. These are real issues which must be part of the discussion as we cannot overlook an entire population. This is where a plastic straw has a place, but even here the disposal must be such to ensure it does not end up in some turtle’s throat or caught up in a reef.


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Now in Cape Town, the debate of our water-crisis has led people to defend single use plastic to save on water but, in all honesty, there is no argument for this. Needing a single use cup or straw to throw it away will do more damage than to actively and consciously make use of a reusable alternative. Many alternatives exist such as cardboard or bamboo straws or cups which save the environment and ensure that an establishment utilises less water.


While big companies do play the largest role in removing the supply of single-use plastics, it comes down to us as a society to make the effort to cut down on its use. We have the power to change our future and if we want to live in a world similar, or better than now, we have to make the change today!

This section of VARSITY is a vehicle for expression on any topic by members of the UCT community. The opinions within this section are not necessarily those of the VARSITY collective or its advertisers.

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