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Metal straws are unsustainable Sorry, your trendy $5 straw is not actually saving the environment

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Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

By Kayla Freeman, Contributor

Since 2019, metal straws have taken over. Every day, I see at least 50 metal straws in peoples’ beverages. That should be a good thing, right? To some extent it is, but people aren’t choosing sustainability for the right reasons. Using a metal straw is currently a trend, but are metal straws even the right answer to saving our oceans and marine life?

Of course not. Imagine if saving the environment was that easy. Every day, 500 million disposable plastic straws are used and will likely end up in our waterways. This statistic can scare many people into thinking that the solution lies in replacing plastic straws with their metal counterparts. However, many people fail to realize what materials and emissions go into making a metal straw. 

The energy used to create one metal straw is roughly equivalent to creating 90 plastic straws, and also produces carbon emissions equivalent to 150 plastic straws. This may not seem like a lot, but in order to offset the environmental impact of creating a metal straw, it must be used over 150 times. 

We also need to consider the harsh reality of nickel mining that is necessary in order to create these trendy accessories. The Philippines is a predominant nickel supplier. Much of the soil in Palawan, a major nickel supplier in the Philippines, has been reduced to a wasteland. 

Metal straws are not the only items that are made out of nickel, meaning that they are not the sole contributors to the destruction of soil in Palawan. However, they are trendy accessories and are produced excessively. This is evidenced through the variety of designs metal straws are offered in. Our materialist society  does not hesitate to contribute to this “fast fashion” accessory, with celebrities such as Jeffree Star capitalizing on the movement by coming out with their own packs of metal straws. The excessive production of metal straws contradicts the environmentalist intentions that they are meant to fulfill.

If you’re purchasing a metal straw, you would assume that it would be made out of metal, right? Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Many of these items are not labelled due to their “eco-friendly” branding strategy as they are not required to list any ingredients since the straw is not being consumed. Safe metal straws should be made with food-grade stainless steel as any other materials may corrode over time. Safe metal straws should be made with food-grade stainless steel as any other materials may corrode over time. 

Additionally, painted or coloured straws also pose a risk of either contaminating the drink or containing unsafe chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA), which  is known to cause an array of health risks. Metal straws might not be the only alternative to disposable plastic straws, but they are very popular because of their durability and cost-effectiveness. 

Make no mistake, I think that we should try to be as eco-friendly as possible. But if you are going to opt for a reusable straw, try to purchase locally and support Canadian businesses, such as Glass Sipper. It’s important to keep in mind that when you are trying to be sustainable to be aware of what goes into the production of “eco-friendly alternatives” because sometimes the good intent gets lost in the action.

 

 

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