Have any of you hopped on the trend of using metals straws instead of plastic ones? I admit that I have yet to. Back in 2018, I remembered that a friend asked me if I would like to purchase a set of metal straws for less than 10 bucks. I hesitated but my peers around me were interested and started placing orders. I’m not sure what were their reasons for getting the metal straws – were they thinking about the environment or just simply following the trends? Their rationale was that more fast-food restaurants and hawker centers are not supplying plastic straws anymore and thus having their own straws would come in handy. The metal straws were pretty and affordable but I held back as I thought that I can always drink from the cup itself without the use of straws, why would I want to waste my money.
It is only recently that I knew about the controversy of metal straws. Everyone believes that by reducing our use of plastic, we can reduce our impact on marine pollution (and to save those cute marine animals – turtles). Indeed, marine pollution is a serious issue and a challenging one too, however, few have considered the impacts of metal straws. Can our action of changing the use of plastic straws to metal straws save the environment? Are there any negative consequences?
According to Freeman (2019) and Limos (2019), “the energy used to produce a single metal straw is equivalent to the energy used to produce 90 plastic straws. Based on their carbon emissions, producing one metal straw is equivalent to producing 150 plastic straws”. Seems like saving the environment is not that simple as we think it can be. Certainly, by using fewer plastic straws, we can reduce the amount of plastic disposed into the ocean however the use of metal straws presents another environmental problem and that is the pollution of our air.
Many people have neglected what materials and emissions go into the making of metal straws. Nickel, one of the materials that are used in the making of metal straws, has adverse environmental effects. With the increase of nickel used, the mining of nickel increases. The mining and smelting of Nickel released Particular Matter(PM) into the atmosphere (Sheoran, 2012). When workers are mining for metals such as nickel, they are exposed to many health impacts – chest pain, headache, etc (Sheoran, 2012). We might be selfish and think that we are not the ones mining and these impacts do not influence us. But remember that these small air pollutants have the ability to travel great distances. It gets accumulated in the air around us as well. Whether we like it or not, we will have to breathe them in. Thus in one way or another, it gets back to us.
Besides the release of PM in the atmosphere, the outer coating of metal straws contains harmful chemicals such as Bisphenol A (Freeman, 2019), which can have adverse impacts when it enters our body.
In addition to environmental pollution and health impacts, we are declining the World’s natural resources. We are already in a crisis of natural resource insecurity, with the high demand for metal straws to so-called reduced marine pollution, manufacturers are exploiting nature at an unsustainable rate. If we continue this, we will soon run out of resources for human welfare.
Now think again, is using metal straws really a better option for the environment and our health? I’ll leave some time for you to ponder about this matter. Share your thoughts with us 🙂
Your environmental buddy,
Cui,C. (N.D). Metal straw in a mug of water. [Online image] Retrieved from https://www.thesil.ca/metal-straws-are-unsustainable
Freeman,K. (2019). Metal straws are unsustainable. Retrieved from https://www.thesil.ca/metal-straws-are-unsustainable
Limos, M. (2019). Metal Straws vs. Plastic: Their Impact on the Environment. Retrieved from https://esquiremag.ph/culture/lifestyle/are-metal-straws-bad-for-the-environment-a00293-20190815
Sheoran,A.S.,R.P.Choudhary and V.Sheoran. (2012). Treatment for acid mine drainage utilizing dimension stone waste. J.Environ.Sci.Technol.,5:119-127