“It’s just a straw”

So to continue my eco-rant from yesterday and bring things totally off-topic had this exchange in the office the other day. One co-worker (who leads a fairly active outdoors life) walked into the kitchen and saw a Dixie straw sitting on the counter by the coffee maker and went on a mini-rant about people not throwing away their stuff when they are done with it. One of us stated how it was the straw used to mix their coffee and as they are planning to have another cup he put it there to reuse. “It’s just a straw, just grab another one” was the response he got as his straw met the garbage can.

The exchange got me thinking as I try to be conscious of my output and have been using the same red “ghetto pimp cup” here for a few months, just rinse and repeat. I’ve also seen the aftermath of beach cleanup days, and how many cigarette butts (BTW, everytime I see a smoker throw a cigarette out the window I want to punch them in the face. One day I’ll get my opportunity…) make their way to the beach. I’m sure each smoker thinks “it’s just a tiny butt”, but it adds up.

In fact, cigarettes are the most littered item in America and the world. Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate tow, NOT COTTON, and they can take decades to degrade. Not only does cigarette litter ruin even the most picturesque setting, but the toxic residue in cigarette filters is damaging to the environment, and littered butts cause numerous fires every year, some of them fatal.

So, anyways, back to straws, I decided I’d try and figure the volume of straws making their way to the North Pacific gyre if everyone in the world threw one away as the thought of head high, straw infested barrels is unappealing to me. It should be noted that the math > me, and I had to make some unscientific assumptions, so if you see anything amiss point it out.

Coming to an ocean/landfill near you

Straw size: 5.25″ long. I’m assuming that it three straws crushed down will be 1mm (1/254″) in height and width (very unscientific guesstimates, and yes I mixed metric and standard measurements). So that means the volume of three straws (L x W x H) would be 5.25 * 1/254 * 1/254 = .00008138″. The population of the world at 8:35 this morning was estimated at 6,768,982,726. So taking that times the earlier number we get 550,827 cubic inches. Dividing that by 1728 we get 318.8 cubic feet. Yup, that’s a pile of straws a football field long, a football field’s length wide, and a football field’s length deep.

I realize that there are parts of the world not throwing away straws, but I also realize that the package of straws we have in the cupboard comes with 1000 of them in it and it’s not the first package our company of six has used in the past year. Will not throwing away straws save the world? Of course not, but can your finger or a wood stick achieve the same end goal as a non-degrading straw? Yes. As people whose recreational pursuits are dependent on the environment continuing to work in the way we’re familiar with it’s worth considering little things you can do to help out.

/end rant, we now return to our regularly scheduled snow stoke

2 comments to “It’s just a straw”

  • A.

    My (Canadian/American) girlfriend puts plastic straws and sandwich baggies in the dishwasher. Really? Yes. Using precious water. What a bitch. …and our dishwasher barely gets plates clean, how will it clean out a straw? So weird.

    Eco-shit pisses me off, because I want to do the right thing…but everyone’s either lying or doing the numbers wrong. Bringing the alleged “Gyre” thing into the argument almost makes me want to go out and buy straws, just to throw them away: click my name right there to see my feelings on that gyre (important opinion, mine is…), but I need someone in charge of Eco Statistics. I need pie charts and graphs and shit, all broke down in objective styles.

    And this straw-football field: NFL or CFL? And is that even very big? And who even uses straws? WHO USES STRAWS?

    -milkshake hater, OUT

  • bigdood

    bwaaaahahaha, epic response! CFL doesn’t exist brah, it’s like soccer and unicorns.

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