Here's why people are ditching their plastic straws

Do you always reach for a straw when you purchase a drink? The plastic utensils may soon be harder to find, because cities across the United States are banning them.

Seattle recently announced that businesses that sell food or drinks will no longer be allowed to offer the plastic straws or plastic utensils under a rule that went into effect Sunday. It’s a first-of-its-kind law for any major American city.

The new legislation is an effort to combat plastic pollution, and policymakers throughout the country are being encouraged to follow suit.

Want to learn more about the plastic straws ban? Here’s what you should know.

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What’s so bad about plastic straws?

About 500 million plastic straws are used every day in the U.S. and many of them, as well as coffee stirrers, end up in the environment, according to Better Alternatives Now, an analysis done by several pollution research groups.

The utensils can pollute oceans, litter beaches or harm animals. In fact, they top the list on trash surveys, the analysts found.

“They’re everywhere, and like bottle caps, plastic straws float. They threaten wildlife and contribute to the growing ocean plastic epidemic,” the team said.

Which cities have banned them?

Several cities in California, including Alameda, Carmel, San Luis Obispo, Davis, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Oakland, Richmond, and Berkeley, have legislation that bans plastic straws.

Monmouth Beach in New Jersey, Fort Myers and Miami Beach in Florida, and Seattle and Edmonds in Washington, have also restricted the use of them.

New York and Hawaii have pending straw ban rules.

As for other countries, Taiwan, Vancouver, Scotland and the United Kingdom have also made efforts to rid of plastic straws.

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Which companies have banned them?

The Last Plastic Straw, a movement to eliminate single use plastic, keeps track of companies no longer using plastic straws. Some include The Hideout Restaurant, Taco Junky & Tequila Bar, and Ted's Montana Grill.

In June, Bon Appétit, a food-service company, announced it would be getting rid of plastic straws in all 1,000 of its cafes across 33 states by September 2019.

McDonald’s in the United Kingdom is reportedly testing paper straws, although plastic straws are still currently being used.

What are people using instead of plastic straws?

Environmental organizations are encouraging restaurants and food-service establishments to switch to a "straws upon request" policy. Researchers also hope restaurants will begin providing paper, rye wheat, bamboo, reusable glass, steel or metal straws for eat-in dining.

What other items pose an environmental threat?

Organizations have also conducted research on the dangers of plastic wrappers and containers; bottle and container caps; beverage bottles; plastic bags; plastic utensils; and takeout containers.

"Globally, an average of eight million tons of plastic escapes collection systems, winding up in the environment and eventually the ocean," Better Alternatives Now reported. "Once there, sunlight and currents shred plastic debris into smaller particles called microplastics, which absorb and concentrate toxic chemicals up the marine food chain and into our bodies."

Take a look at some of the findings here.

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