Berry: Saving planet entails more than banning straws

Kelowna - Why not ditch the straw? Or stop buying plastic entirely?

Saving the environment is going to take more than replacing plastic straws with bamboo.

While it makes consumers feel good about themselves to replace their straws, it certainly doesn’t contribute to replenishing half of the world’s bamboo species that are currently under the threat of extinction, according to a United Nations study.

READ MORE: Kelowna bakery offers bamboo straws as alternative to plastic

While I applaud a shift in mindset towards an environmentally friendly world, it’s also a marketing scheme.

Why not ditch the straw? Or stop buying plastic entirely?

Consider the rate we use it. Plastic hasn’t been around for that long, early forms of it can be dated back to about 150 years ago, according to the article Plastic, published in National Geographic.

However, the shift towards the consumption of convenient synthetic materials came after the Second World War, the article said. Shortages of materials during the war led to synthetic creations, which are in everything from our cars to our food packaging.

The production of it also isn’t slowing down.

According to The Guardian, Coca-Cola increased its production of plastic bottles by more than a billion in 2015-2016.

The drink company once used glass bottles, as did many other companies in the industry, which could be returned and reused, but that changed with the introduction of the cheaper material which the company didn’t have to truck back to its factories.

Now, the company faces criticism as plastic drink bottle production will reach more than half a trillion; only a fraction of which will be recycled, another article from The Guardian said.

But where does the fault lie? Should we place blame on a company that has taken advantage of a cheap alternative? Definitely, but I doubt Coca Cola intentionally wanted its bottles to end up inside a sea turtle’s belly.

READ MORE: Starbucks gets rid of plastic straws in favour of recyclable lids

If we drank less Coca Cola, there would be fewer bottles, less to recycle and less in the ocean.

Also note, China is the largest producer of plastic; it accounts for a quarter of the world’s total production, according to National Geographic. Think about that next time you tout how much you’re saving the planet when you bring a bamboo straw to a party.

Here’s the true test to see if you’re an environmental advocate, what part of your life are you willing to give up for the planet? This may mean living in a smaller house, using less electricity or water and adopting cups that don’t need a straw. Or, you know, just consuming less.

Saanich’s move to ban plastic bags and Vancouver’s plastic straw ban may have the right intent, but we have a long way to go.

@carliberry_
carli.berry@kelownacapnews.com

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