IT’S NATIONAL SKIP THE STRAW DAY
By Peter R. Ibarbo, Education & Outreach Coordinator
South Central Solid Waste Authority
The year 1888 is an important one for us in New Mexico as it marks the year our oldest public institution of higher education was founded, New Mexico State University. 1888 is also the year the “straw” was patented in Washington D.C. by Marvin Stone. The patent consisted of a manufacturing process where the straw was produced using winding strips of paper. However, in the 1960s, it was replaced by a toxic material called plastic, which is the common straw we know today.
While it may seem harmless and quite silly to even think that a simple plastic straw could have such a devastating impact in our environment, the harsh reality is that it does. One plastic straw can take approximately 200 years to decompose, which means we have 140 years more to go before straws produced in the 60s will decompose. Can you imagine how many more plastic straws have been produced since then? Have you ever wondered how long a plastic straw lasts for its intended use? Plastic straws are discarded immediately once a beverage is consumed (probably quicker than it takes to produce one) and how many beverages do people consume using plastic straws daily? Is it even necessary to sip out of a plastic straw versus tipping the glass to get a drink?
Personally, I prefer to tip the glass, but the issue of the plastic straw has become an important one to the extent that municipalities in the West have created ordinances banning or restricting the use of plastic straws. Why would they do that, you might ask? Perhaps to help mitigate the negative effects plastic straws are causing in our environment, such as the toxic byproducts they cause when exposed to heat or the physical harm they cause to marine life. Furthermore, plastic straws are not one of the items that can be recycled in our recycling stream. They end up at the landfill, our desert landscape, streams, or as noted worldwide, polluting our oceans in a big way.
Will you join me in skipping the straw? Here is a simple way you can observe National Skip the Straw Day on Friday, February 26, 2021: Ask your waitress or drive-thru attendant to leave the straw off when ordering your beverage. It is that simple.
South Central Solid Waste Authority manages solid waste, recyclables, and works to stop illegal dumping for residents and businesses throughout Doña Ana County. Contact the SCSWA at 575-528-3800 or visit www.SCSWA.net.