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Are drinking straws an environmental menace?

The company that has issued the demand that drinking straws be taxed is called BusinessWaste. It says that plastic drinking straws should be heavily taxed so that manufacturers are encouraged to go back to producing paper straws, made from substances that are biodegradable. Quoted by the BBC, the environmental recycling company states that plastic straws are “the ultimate in human wastefulness”.

On the company’s website, BusinessWaste’s spokesman Mark Hall explains further: “A plastic straw has a lifespan of around 20 minutes, and then it’s thrown away. Where recycling facilities exist, most pubs and bars don’t bother separating out used straws to recycle because it’s fiddly, and — frankly — they’ve been in the mouth of a stranger.”

Hall adds: “They [plastic straws] are pretty much the ultimate in human wastefulness, and a problem that can so easily be solved with very little effort.”

The U.K. Recycling Association has named Pringles tubes and Lucozade Sport bottles as the “villains” of the recycling world, since they are the most difficult products to process and attempt to recycle. This is based on the fact that greater the number of materials used in packaging, the harder it is for recycling machines to separate them, and the two products named are made of a variety of materials.

As to what the tax should be, BusinessWaste are suggesting five pence as a suitable sum (around 10 U.S. cents). The website Buffalo Rising suggests that adults use more drinking straws than children, with the use of straws a common addition to many cocktail drinks.

As well as being difficult to dispose of and a recycling challenge, an untold number of plastic straws end up in coastal waterways and many reach the ocean, harming aquatic life. The following video shows the harm a plastic straw causes to a sea turtle:

In more positive news, a British based called disposables manufacturer called Herald Plastic has developed a novel range of edible straws, which consumers can eat after use.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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