The Final Straw? Fashion’s Stand Against Plastic Pollution

An unlikely campaigner has recently joined the fight against climate change: Vivienne Westwood is the latest company to speak out against plastic pollution. They recently posted a photo supporting the #refusethestraw movement on Facebook, which received 11,000 likes and over 2,700 shares.

The photo was posted by Vivienne Westwood on Facebook.

 

If you buy a drink from a bar or cafe, chances are it will have a least one straw in it. It’s not unusual to get several of these drinks in one day alone. Furthermore, before you even get a cocktail in a bar, the bartender might have used two or three straws to test out the drink’s flavour. In the UK, this adds up to approximately 50 million straws each day. McDonald’s alone serves 3.5 million drinks – with straws – daily. The majority of these straws are chucked in the bin instead of being recycled.

 

Disposable straws don’t disappear after they’re thrown away. They end up on our beaches, in the ocean, and break down into small bits of plastic that are mistaken for food by sea life. Straws can be recycled, but they are made from non-biodegradable plastic. This means they are going to be swimming in our oceans much longer than we will be alive. As plastics are relatively new to the world, nobody knows exactly how long they’ll take to break down, but scientists estimate they will take over 200 years to disintegrate into tiny particles, and 600 years to fully break down. Some think they could stick around forever. They pollute beaches, the ocean, and the fish we eat, therefore polluting people too.

 

 

People all around the world are starting to #refusethestraw, helped by social media – the best tool for quick and easy dissemination of ideas. Ideas can spread through Twitter, Instagram or Facebook in mere minutes, as we’ve all seen with memes that become widely known just hours after the event that inspired them – think ‘covfefe’. It’s great to see that this same structure can be used to spread awareness of current issues. Grassroots campaigns like #refusethestraw don’t shy away from the issue of climate change but understand that it’s all a bit overwhelming. Droughts, rising sea levels, dying polar bears, and other gloomy headlines make the problems seem insurmountable. When it comes to helping the planet, it’s hard to know where to start. Most people don’t have the time or energy to install solar panels on the roof or to grow all their own vegetables. However, making small day-to-day differences can also have a huge positive effect. Not using a straw in your drink seems inconsequential, and requires very little effort to carry out. However, for every person that gets involved with the campaign, we will reduce our consumption by hundreds of straws per year. Every day, 500,000,000 plastic straws are used each day in the United States alone, according to the US National Parks Service.

 

The backing of big brands is crucial to give these movements coverage. For that, Vivienne Westwood, we applaud you. On Twitter, many users are demonstrating the need to cut down using the hashtag #refusethestraw. Here are some of them:

In the future, we could well see a ‘straw tax’ just like the 5p plastic bag charge across the UK. The plastic bag charge has been incredibly successful in reducing our plastic bag use. In the year since the charge was introduced, plastic bag use has dropped by 85%. It’s likely a similar law would have the same effect on disposable straws. Reusable or paper straws are widely available alternatives that bars and cafes could stock. In fact, it’s not hard to see us living in a world without plastic straws in the next five years.

 

Unsurprisingly, the movement is gaining support – it’s hard to argue against these scary stats. However, some critics have pointed out that straws are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Plastic comes in all shapes and sizes, and the smaller the size, the more danger it poses to sea life. Just because you refuse a straw for your drinks at the bar, it doesn’t exempt you from recycling the plastic box of your takeaway at the end of the night.

 

Another inconvenient truth that we have so far failed to address is the pollution that comes from using glitter. We all love a splash or two of glitter at festivals, on a night out, or if you’re simply feeling yourself™ on a Tuesday afternoon. But think of the cleanup required after letting your pal give you glitter roots on a night out. You’re picking shiny plastic out of your hair, ears, and eyelashes for days. Now imagine where all that glittery goodness is ending up after you’re finally rid of it: down the plughole and into the ocean. Any ingredients listed as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyethylene (PE), or polypropylene (PP) are non-biodegradable plastics. All of these plastics, if not recycled, are just as big a problem as the straws we mass consume.

 

 

Don’t worry! Well, maybe worry a bit. But some beauty brands are stocking up on biodegradable alternatives to plastic glitter, with Lush leading the way. Famous for its ethically sourced products and fight against animal testing, Lush has switched to using mica and mineral glitter, as well as natural starch-based lustres. Hopefully, this is the start of a widespread change in sustainable cosmetics.

 

A glitter revolution sounds like something we at SANT could get behind! Now that we are starting to realise our impact on the planet, it’s never been more important to make a few changes with the environment in mind. Small substitutions like drinking your coffee or cocktail without a straw, or ethically sourcing your glitter, can really make a difference, even from just one person. Less plastic means healthier oceans. And that means we keep these little guys happy.

 

For more information about what you can do to help, visit www.thelastplasticstraw.org.

 

Do you think we should have a 5p charge for straws? Give SANT your opinion below!

 

 

Words: Dido Gompertz

 

Hashtags: #environment #fashion #recycle #twitter #glitter

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