Back in June, KFC Singapore announced that it would no longer provide plastic caps and straws with drinks. According to KFC, this would enable a reduction of 17.8 metric tonnes of single-use plastics in a year.
Single-use plastics, such as disposable utensils, straws, and takeaway containers, are a major target in the battle to go green and reduce waste, both locally and worldwide.
The seemingly innocuous plastic straw is perhaps the easiest target. After all, apart from people with certain medical needs, most of us can sip our drinks directly from the glass or cup.
Indeed, anti-plastic straw sentiment has been growing internationally. Scotland plans to ban them by the end of 2019, and Taiwan will be banning not just straws but also single-use plastics by 2030.
In the U.S. alone, an estimated 500 million single-use plastic straws are thrown away every day. Many wind up in the oceans, where they may be ingested by marine creatures, causing starvation and death.
In addition, straws may gradually break down into microplastics. These are eaten by fish and shellfish, which are in turn eaten by humans. Microplastics may also wind up in our water supply.
Unfortunately, straw recycling isn’t a viable solution. Most plastic straws are too light to be recycled. They just drop out of the sorting machines.
But not everyone is ready to give up plastic straws. Many value the convenience of sipping through a straw, especially if they are drinking on the go. And of course, the straw doubles as a stirrer. Straws also keep your lipstick intact or help you avoid getting a “milk moustache.”
What can we do if we don’t want to give up straws? One solution is to replace plastic straws with reusable ones made of bamboo or stainless steel. Special brushes can be used to clean the inside of a straw after each use. Some cafes in Singapore have started offering reusable straws for diners, while others offer discounts for customers who bring their own straws.
In response to growing awareness and demand, several shops have started selling reusable straws. It is fairly easy to buy one online now. They aren’t expensive either: A set consisting of a straw and a brush can go for around 6 Singaporean dollars, or less than ¥500.
In an effort to reduce waste, I bought a stainless steel straw and brush. But to be honest, I often forget to bring it out. So I usually just forego the straw if I order drinks.
In Japan, consumers are probably used to getting disposable plastic straws, typically packaged in even more plastic or paper. Would it be too difficult for you to replace it with your own reusable straw? Or would you like to simply skip the straw? (Tan Ying Zhen)