During a visit with my granddaughter in Chicago last month I noticed that she was using a stainless steel straw in her drink. She said she wants to do her part to cut down on the plague of single-use plastic. Her boyfriend shares her concern but says he’s just drinking “old school,” without a straw.

During a visit with my granddaughter in Chicago last month I noticed that she was using a stainless steel straw in her drink. She said she wants to do her part to cut down on the plague of single-use plastic. Her boyfriend shares her concern but says he’s just drinking “old school,” without a straw.
The Chicago White Sox are also part of the campaign to limit single-use plastics. They have stopped automatically serving plastic straws with drinks at all concessions.  Guests are given biodegradable straws if they ask.
In 2015 Chicago joined over 100 other counties and municipalities that passed laws to discourage or prohibit single-use plastic bags that clutter streets, dangle from trees, and eventually find their way into overflowing landfills.  Recycling hasn’t proved to be the answer, since they tangle in the machinery and there isn’t a market for the pellets made from them.
The city imposed a 7 cents-per-bag tax, with five cents going to the city and 2 cents to the retailer.  Shoppers decided they would rather bring their own reusable bags than pay the tax, and plastic and paper bag use dropped 42 percent in the first month.
When California enacted a statewide ban on single use plastic bags, Big Plastic pushed back hard, spending 3 million dollars organizing a petition to delay it until the people could vote on it. The voters approved the ban. The battle continues, with some U. S. states passing laws prohibiting statewide bans in order to prevent local municipalities from passing their own bans.
Plastic straws and stirrers are the 11th most found ocean trash in cleanups. Small lightweight items such as straws are difficult to recycle because they drop out of sorting machines and mix with other materials. The United Kingdom has announced that it will ban plastic straws and several U. S. cities prohibit them.
One consequence of plastic waste is the Great Pacific garbage patch in the North Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii. This whirlpool is estimated to be twice the size of Texas. Ocean currents from across the North Pacific gather floating plastic and other litter and carry it toward the center of the vortex, trapping it there.
In many areas, the concentration of plastics is several times greater than the plankton that feed many kinds of aquatic life. The United Nations Ocean Conference estimated that the oceans might contain more weight in plastics than fish by the year 2050.
Some plastics end up in the stomachs of wildlife and their young.  The  black-footed albatross loses approximately one-third of their chicks due to being fed plastic by their parents.
The strength of the anti-plastic movement has gained momentum as harm to the environment by plastics is fully realized.  Bans or partial bans on the sale of single-use bags are being enacted by governments all over the world, including parts of Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, and North America.  (Hong Kong Free Press)  Kenya has made buying and selling plastic bags a crime punishable by jail time.
Increasingly people are thinking it’s unacceptable to have  plastic bags hanging from trees, clumped by the sides of freeways, caught up in storm drains, and floating in the ocean.
Plastic litter isn't just ugly to look at; it’s a threat to the environment. We can protect our environment and waterways by taking our own bags to the grocery store, refusing straws, bringing our own coffee cups, and declining single-use items.  It is possible to curb the plastics plague.



Vera Nall writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.