Drastic Plastic

Got your reusable shopping bag and steel travel mug covered? Go further on the plastic-free path and stage an active resistance against all things throwaway.


By Amely Greeven

I’ve seen the light and there’s no turning back. Disposable plastic, the scourge of marine health and ubiquitous litterer of beaches, needs to become obsolete. It’s trashing our oceans, killing and injuring sea mammals, fish and birds. And because it never biodegrades, fragments of it move up the food chain into our bodies, unleashing its endocrine-disrupting effect. As Dianna Cohen of the Plastic Pollution Coalition puts it, “Plastic is a substance the planet cannot digest.” So let’s accelerate the sea change, starting now.

First off, plastic straws: they truly suck. Used for fleeting moments of convenience—iced coffee and green juice; smoothie, bloody mary and school milk—straws’ actual lifespan is shocking. They last for centuries in our ecosystem, ending up landfilled or accidentally blown, washed or tossed into open water. (Straws are so slim they slip through the recycling stream.) Once you start looking for these totems of throwaway living, you see them everywhere. Forcing redundancy requires going beyond reduce, reuse, recycle to the fourth “r”: refuse. Say, “No straw, please,” when ordering a drink. It’s an easy gesture and act of everyday activism that also models mindful consumption to kids. While you’re at it, encourage the bars, restaurants and movie theaters you patronize, and the schools you or your kids attend, to make a no-straw or straw-upon-demand pledge.

Tell them about innovative and truly compostable options, like Aardvark’s paper straws, Harvest’s heritage, non-GMO grain straws (a return to the original utensil—a piece of straw!) or even Lolistraw’s groundbreaking, edible seaweed-based straws. And keep a bevy of metal, glass or bamboo straws on hand (think, purse; gym bag; car console; desk drawer) so you’re never caught short. Simply Straw’s colorful and super-durable glass straws were designed by a dental hygienist to help patients protect tooth enamel (tip: drink coffee, tea, lemon juice and yes, even wine through these). The transparent material won’t heat up or get freezing cold like metal does, and it makes stubborn gunk easy to get out. Meanwhile, Brush with Bamboo crafts smooth and substantial straws from hand-cut lengths of whole bamboo stalk. They look and feel especially satisfying in the hand and are fabulous for serving exotic drinks to friends.

Which leads us to the second habit worth breaking: Tossing plastic toothbrushes in the trash four times a year. What good is a dental hygiene habit that helps your body but hurts Mother Earth? Plant-based brushes use quick-growing and compostable bamboo handles; unless you can find boar-bristle brushes, which have dubious slaughterhouse sources, the nylon bristles need to be removed first. (Brush with Bamboo’s bristles are 62 percent castor bean oil, a step closer to biodegradable). Bogobrush has developed compostable brushes using flaxseed, and The Goodwell Company offers a chic, recycled aluminum handle to keep for life, with interchangeable refills for brush, tongue scraper, and floss stick that are biodegradable. Added bonus? No need for the disposable floss pick—another source of plastic trash that the sea turtles, gulls and whales can surely do without.


PLASTIC STATS: An estimated 500 million plastic straws are used— and disposed of—in the U.S. every day. A garbage truck’s worth of plastic is dumped in the oceans every minute. By 2050, there will reportedly be more plastic by weight in our oceans than fish.

GET ACTIVE: Follow @NoPlasticStraws and @lonelywhale on Twitter, and visit #stopsucking campaign and lifewithoutplastic.com for info and inspiration.