COME July 1, all eateries in Selangor will be banned from using plastic straws.
The state government’s aim is to eventually eliminate single-use plastics altogether, followed by a nationwide ban on plastic straws by next year.
As we all know too well now, the plastic pollution problem in Malaysia and worldwide has worsened and taken its toll on our environment.
In August 2017, The Star reported that if one straw is used per person each day in Malaysia, 31 million plastic straws are used daily nationwide.
Even before the announcement of the ban, many eateries have already started using paper and metal straws. Some have done away with straws altogether.
But while announcing the ban, Selangor Environment, Green Technology, Science and Consumer Affairs Committee chairman Hee Loy Sian said the eateries could still provide plastic straws to customers if they requested it, which is counter-intuitive.
This is where we, the consumers, need to really change our mindset and look at this from a much bigger perspective and simple economics.
If the demand for plastic straws can be reduced, it can possibly lead to lower production of these non-biodegradable utensils.
For a start, places like hospitals also need to also look into using these “alternative” straws for patients, especially children and elderly.
On our part, we can stop using plastic straws and consider carrying stainless steel straws for dining out and takeaways.
According to a National Geographic article, one study estimated that “8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s beaches”.
A single non-biodegradable plastic straw takes hundreds of years to break down into small pieces, known as microplastics.
But straws are only 0.025% of the global pollution crisis.
It has been reported that eight million tonnes of plastic flow into the ocean every year.
All of us saw the magnitude of the plastic pollution problem when a dead whale was found off Davao Gulf in the Philippines earlier this year with almost 40kg of plastic in its stomach.
According to National Geographic, the whale was not alone.
The website also stated that more marine life has been found dead with their bellies stuffed with plastic, and based on Unesco statistics 100,000 marine animals die from plastic pollution every year.
In some cases like that of the whale, the plastic build-up trapped in the stomach starves the animal as it blocks food from travelling from the stomach to the intestine.
The time has come for us to really put into action our habits to reduce pollution for our marine eco-system as well as our current livelihood and that of our future generations.
It all boils down to a change in our daily practices and everyone making a conscious effort to reduce not only the use of plastic straws but also all single-use plastics.
When buying cooked food outside, we can bring our own tiffin carriers or reusable containers instead of using the plastic takeaway packaging at hawker stalls.
As for purchases of raw food such as meat and seafood, we can bring our own freezer re-sealable storage bags. For eggs, bring our own reusable egg cartons.
At the administrative level, states can follow the Selangor route in prohibiting plastic straws, with an eye on the eventual ban of single-use plastics.