BEIJING: As global fast-food chains and coffee shops begin phasing out single-use plastic straws and stir sticks, both major sources of pollution, environmentalists in China say government support is needed to ensure such efforts can help clean the world’s oceans.
McDonald’s China introduced a “strawless” lid for cold beverages at 10 Beijing restaurants on Nov 1. Diners also will not receive plastic straws unless they specifically ask, according to a new company policy aimed at reducing plastic waste.
In July, Starbucks also vowed to stop using single-use plastic straws at more than 28,000 outlets worldwide.
Data from the US Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, which organises volunteers to remove trash from the world’s waterways, showed that almost 409,000 plastic straws and stir sticks were recovered by volunteers from 112 countries in 2016.
In 2015, a disturbing video of scientists attempting to rescue a turtle with a 12cm plastic straw stuck in its nostril off the coast of Costa Rica went viral online.
Non-degradable plastics are a major source of pollution. Scientists estimated in a paper published by Science in 2015 that as much as eight million metric tonnes of plastic waste could be flowing into oceans each year.
Like many consumers, Wu Yanmei, a bank clerk in Beijing, had never thought about the impact a simple straw could have on the environment.
“Actually, I don’t like using straws, but the cups at fast food restaurants are all designed for use with a straw,” she said. “I don’t think straws are necessar. This is a good way to raise awareness of not using single-use plastic products.”
However, Jiang Jianguo, a professor of environmental studies at Tsinghua University, said he doubts such activities alone can have a major effect on the global pollution problem.
“Compared with other plastic products, straws account for only a small proportion of pollution. It’s more urgent to reduce larger plastic trash like bottles by controlling production and enhancing laws and regulations,” he said. — China Daily / Asia News Network
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