Saying no to plastic straws

Think about where those bits of plastic end up, and the environmental impact which they have.

WHEN you order an iced drink, you do not usually think twice about the straw that comes with it.

It is almost automatic for us to drink a cold drink through a straw at a restaurant, bar or mamak stall, but do we really need it?

Yes, straws are useful for young children, the elderly and those who are too weak to drink from a glass.

But for those who are perfectly able to drink from a glass unassisted, it is almost silly that we still need to use a straw. Those who are worried about the cleanliness of the glass could bring along reusable straws.

On top of that, single-use plastic straws, the most commonly used straws in establishments, have several detrimental environmental effects.

Many people are unaware that it takes up to 200 years for a single plastic straw to break down.

This means that the first plastic straw that was introduced in the 1960s still exists somewhere on Earth.

Most of these plastics end up in our ocean, and are either consumed or get tangled up in our sea animals.

Many people have seen the cringe-worthy video of a group of scientists removing a straw from a turtle’s nostril.

The straw was lodged deep in the turtle’s nasal cavity, reaching down into its throat, inhibiting its breathing and sense of smell. You can clearly see the turtle’s distress in the video.

It is the sad reality of what happens to these single-use plastic straws after their minutes-long lifespan.

It was definitely a graphic example of where our plastics are ending up – tangled up in marine animals.

Most people throw away straws without a thought when they finish their drink. But I now want you to think back to the number of straws you have used and thrown away over your lifespan.

Or look at the bigger picture: imagine if one person uses one straw every day in Malaysia.

That will be 30 million straws used per day, or close to 11 billion straws a year, and this number is in Malaysia alone!

It adds up, doesn’t it?

But we can do something about it. We can make the decision to refuse plastic straws, just as we are beginning to say no to plastic bags and polystyrene containers.

I honestly did not think much about my plastic straw usage until I came across a local campaign called Tak Nak Straw, which is spreading awareness on the detrimental effects of the single-use plastic straw.

Reading about the impacts plastic has on our environment has definitely shown me that the cost outweighs its few benefits.

That is why I have taken a personal vow to say no to plastic straws as the first step in reducing my plastic usage.

I have since bought a pack of reusable stainless steel straws online, and I keep a couple of straws and a straw cleaner in my bag to use when going out.

Not only does my stainless steel straw look awesome, I feel good knowing that I am doing something to reduce my plastic usage.

It is also a great conversation starter and a good way to raise awareness on the impact of single-use plastics.

I hope to see more people turning down plastic straws and to see more businesses adopt a plastic straw-free approach.

Perhaps our Government could consider imposing a plastic straw tax to help reduce our nation’s single-plastic usage. Or maybe the Government could introduce some kind of incentive for businesses going plastic-free.

It honestly isn’t much of a sacrifice or hardship to cut these single-use plastics out of my life, especially straws.

Even if you do not have a reusable straw, you can still refuse a plastic straw and just drink straight from the glass.

So next time you’re at the mamak stall or restaurant, don’t forget to say “tak nak straw”!

Online reporter Victoria Brown’s Behind The Cage tackles the pressing issues of animal rights and environmental awareness. She can be reached at

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