The Last Straw

Society never fails to tell us what bandwagon to hop on. There was Kony 2012, Free The Nip, and #CrocNation. Now, there is the Reusable Straw Trend.

The plastic thirst-quencher has always been a device consumers have taken for granted. We mindlessly unwrap the perfectly packaged item and stick it in our ice cold drink not realizing the damage we cause to our environment.

We have the power to phase out straws altogether, but society has innovated a replacement that has taken off nationally as well as in the UNH community.

The reusable straw, coined as the environmentally safe alternative to plastic straws, is the cool, new trendy item to have.

Reusable straws made of stainless steel, paper, glass and even bamboo have slowly started to replace old plastic models.

But why? Straws are plastic; can’t they be recycled? Apparently not.

Straws are commonly thought to be recyclable (among other popular items) but this isn’t true. According to the Guardian, when non-recyclable items are found in recycling bins, all of that waste is sent to a landfill instead of a recycling center, which inevitably fills oceans with plastic and other garbage.

Additionally, the usage of plastic straws can get BPA into your system. BPA or bisphenol A, is a industrial plastic that has been in use since the 1960’s. It can find its way into your food and water, and some studies have shown that exposure to those chemicals have been linked to increase blood pressure, and has been known to imitate natural hormones in the body such as estrogen according to Mayo Clinic.

Unfortunately, though replacing the straw with another material is not enough to eliminate all the possible BPA in a person’s drink. While companies are implementing these reusable straws they still continue to use plastic lids which contain BPA. Only when a company stops using industrial plastic will the customer be able to consume a meal or drink without the risk of exposure to BPA.

A lot of people first heard of this movement on Facebook. A video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nose was circulating all over social media. If you type, “Video of sea turtle…” on Google the second option is, “ … with straw stuck in its nose.”

The video tugged at heart strings and started a movement that is beneficial to the environment. This trend has not passed UNH by.

UNH senior, Emily Jenkins has three reusable straws and keeps at least one in her backpack at all times. “I use them because they’re cool and I want to save the turtles!” she exclaimed.

All over campus you can see people adopting metal straws, or opting out to use them altogether. Just this past month, noticeable changes have been made in the UNH community.

At the Dunkin’ Donuts in the MUB (Memorial Union Building), people have been dumping their coffees into reusable cups and tumblers to avoid using a straw. Still wasting a plastic cup--but not using a straw!

Union Court, a busy lunch hub on campus is phasing out straws for new ‘strawless lids’ and guilting people with a ‘Help save the turtles!’ sign. Zeke’s Cafe, a Starbucks affiliated location, has also started to carry these strawless lids.

Getting rid of straws at dining locations correlates with the popularity of reusable ones. Not only have on-campus locations joined the trend, but popular coffee shops downtown are trying to make a difference, too.

Breaking New Grounds (BNG) is selling reusable straws for $1. They started selling metal straws mid-summer and they’ve been a hit ever since. BNG has been struggling to keep up with increasing customer demand.

The Makery has recently started to carry the environmentally-conscious drinking aid. They sell a variety: bamboo (50 cents), stainless steel ($2) and glass blown ($3).

Sarah Grandy, the owner of the Makery, said she initially purchased the glass straws from a local glass blower because she wanted to jump on the bandwagon, too. She bought the other types because of their growing popularity in Durham. “So many people have bought them, and it hasn’t even been a full week yet!”

Reusable straws have become the next big movement among college students. Even larger cities have taken a stand against plastic straws.

Seattle, Washington was the first city in the U.S. to ban straws. Other cities like New York and D.C. have proposed plastic straw bans, according to National Geographic, but phasing them out will still be difficult and timely.

Getting rid of plastic straws is a lot of effort but Durham has already proven that it is possible for a community to initiate change.

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