7 Surprising Things You Can’t Recycle Curbside

We’ve all heard of reduce, reuse, recycle. Like most, you probably assumed that recycling was as simple as throwing anything and (almost) everything paper or plastic into the bin, and walking away guilt-free. News flash: recycling doesn’t work that way, and there’s a lot more to it than you might think.

In order for recycling to be a worthwhile way to collect and produce new materials, recycling facilities need to be profitable enough to support the recycling process–it is a business, after all! So, in addition to purchasing products made with recycled content, one of the best ways you can support recycling worldwide is to recycle properly.

Here’s some of our go-to tips for how you can recycle smarter, after reducing and reusing what you can. Your local recycling center, and the planet, will thank you!

7 Surprising Things You Can't Recycle | EarthHero | Recycling Guide

1. Anything smaller than a Post-It note

Yep, that includes candy wrappers, scrap paper, small bits of aluminum foil, most bottle caps, etc. Stuff this small often can’t be picked up by manual or electronic recycling sorters, and can end up contaminating the rest of the recycling stream. Contamination simply means that foreign materials end up in the finished “bale” of recycled material, dirtying the finished product, and lowering the price the recycling center can resell that material for. With some items, like aluminum foil, you can save it up and form it into a ball larger than 2” wide. For most of these other small items, however, you’ll save the workers at the recycling center both time and energy by just tossing it.

Recycling Guide | EarthHero | Surprising Things you Can't Recycle

2. Plastic bags

It’s plastic…so it can be recycled with everything else, right? Wrong. Thin plastic bags and films (think sandwich baggies or grocery bags) get caught up in the machines that sort recyclables, stopping the giant gears and potentially causing major damage. For most facilities, this means someone has to go in, by hand, to remove all the plastic bags, usually multiple times per day. If you’ve forgotten your reusable grocery bag and end up with disposables, we suggest you collect your single-use bags and drop them off at a large grocery store chain–most of them will take back grocery bags and send them to a separate recycling center. They must be clean and dry, and if you’re confused about what types of plastic films can be recycled, check for the #2 or #4 on the plastic to make sure they’re an acceptable material. When sent to the right facility, these plastic bags will be used to create new plastic bags, or plastic lumber for furniture, fencing, or playground equipment!

Recycling Guide | EarthHero

3. Frozen meal boxes

These tricky little boxes look like they’re just made of paperboard, but there’s a secret lining of plastic that makes this freezer essential totally unrecyclable by most centers. Even if the box says it’s recyclable, many facilities will send it to the landfill, as the polyethylene lining reduces the quality of any paper that ends up being recycled with it. Although there are a few cities like San Diego and Phoenix that allow these boxes to be recycled, we always recommend checking with your local recycler before making assumptions. If you’re unsure, do everyone a favor and toss it in the trash next time–or better yet, ditch the frozen meal altogether!

Shredded Paper | Recycling Guide | EarthHero4. Shredded paper

Shredding bills and personal information is vital, so don’t stop doing that. But the sad truth is that thin paper pieces are too lightweight, and can fly around the recycling center with just a little wind. This floating paper can contaminate glass, aluminum, and metal recycling streams, or even get blown outside of the recycling plant and pollute the local environment. Check out your local recycling center for this one–some feature a secure paper shredder that protects your privacy and ensures your paper makes it to the recycling center, contamination free. Bonus points: if you can’t find an acceptable shredding service, just compost it!

Paper towels | Recycling Guide | EarthHero

5. Paper towels

Here’s another tricky one–paper towels. They’re literally called “paper”, so why can’t they head to the recycling center with all of your other notes and files? When paper gets recycled, it downgrades into a lower quality paper each time. Napkins and paper towels are usually made from this lower quality material, and are the end of the line for recycled papers. Sticking paper towels, especially used ones, into your curbside bin will just contaminate the clean paper that’s already been collected. Instead, stick it in your backyard or commercial compost bin, where it can turn into soil!

Starbucks Cups | recycling guide | EarthHero

6. Starbucks hot cups

Lattes, matcha, cappuccinos, whatever–Starbucks cups for hot drinks (or pretty much any other coffee shop cup) can’t be recycled due to a thin plastic lining that keeps your coffee cup leak-free. This plastic lining is impossible to separate from the paper layer, rendering both materials non-recyclable. While they’re busy putting millions of dollars into finding the right compostable single-use cup, we suggest you swap it out for a reusable alternative you won’t need to put in the landfill.

Recycling Guide | EarthHero | Aluminum cans

7. Crushed aluminum cans

Did you know that aluminum and glass can be infinitely recycled? Yep, forever, and ever, and ever (and ever!). But, when you crush your aluminum cans, there’s a chance it could end up being missed by the recycling sorter and land in the landfill. Aluminum is the most recycled beverage container on the market, so great work there, but we still have a long way to go! Next time you’re enjoying an ice cold soda or drinking a refreshing beer, be sure to leave your aluminum cans uncrushed so it can be recycled for decades to come!

Meet the new golden rule: when in doubt, throw it out. But educate yourself so there’s less doubt to begin with! Most local recycling centers have detailed info on their website about what exactly they recycle, and what needs to go to the landfill. We wish everything could be recycled and recyclable (circular economy, what what!)–but until that day comes, let’s help out the awesome folks at recycling centers across the country by sorting our waste the right way.

Know of a confusing item that we forgot to mention? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Product Breakdown: Plaine Products

The Zero Waste Way to Wash

The plastic-free packaging revolution is here, and it’s starting with your bathroom. With just 4 simple steps, these vegan, cruelty free, and refillable products from Plaine Products will change the way you think, and feel, about your bathroom. Let’s break it down.

Plaine Products | Zero Waste Vegan Personal Care | EarthHero

Step 1: Order your non-toxic, natural, and totally awesome shampoo, conditioner, hand wash, body wash, or moisturizer–either in travel size, or 16oz. It will arrive in an aluminum bottle, and you can replace the aluminum lid with the provided pump. Recycle the shipping box and aluminum lid.

Step 2: When you’re getting low (usually 4-6 months in) order a refill bottle from us at EarthHero!

Step 3: When your original bottle is empty, give it a good rinse to get the extra product out, and then switch your original pump to the refill bottle.

Step 4: Put the new refill’s lid on your empty bottle and place it in the refill box. Stick the enclosed return label over the existing shipping label (making sure it’s totally covered), and send it to your postal carrier like any other letter. The best part? It’s totally free to ship it back!

Plaine Products doesn’t just offer an alternative to single-use plastic bathroom bottles, they also offer plastic-free shipping for a 100% zero waste experience. Their boxes are from EcoEnclose (a proud partner of EarthHero as well) and are made from a mix of 95% post-consumer waste and 5% post-industrial waste. While absolutely no new materials were used to manufacture their cartons, they did work with EcoEnclose to ensure their boxes can stand up to the aluminum bottles being refilled (aka no broken boxes!)

To label all their boxes they use plastic-free, water activated tape from paper, not synthetics. And inside these boxes? Just product–no plastic, packing peanuts, or styrofoam. From the moment it arrives at your house, to the day you send it back, Plaine Products goes the extra mile to ensure a zero waste, minimal plastic experience.

Plaine Products | Zero Waste Vegan Personal Care | EarthHero

Refill, Reuse, Rejoice!

Look at your old shampoo and conditioner. Now look at the first ingredient. Can you pronounce it–out loud? Or is it just water? Unlike the other guys, Plaine Product’s first ingredient in their shampoo and conditioner (well, all of their products) is natural aloe vera. Their formulas are vegan, color safe, and totally natural–bringing your hair back to life and adding sheen and softness. What they don’t have? The harmful chemicals usually found in hair care–like silicone, parabens, sulfates or isopropyl alcohol. Every ingredient is run through the Environmental Working Group’s database to ensure it’s safe for you and the planet. 

Silicone is a mineral that can make your hair seem smooth and soft, but can build up over time and seriously dull out your locks. Silicone is basically like rubber or plastic, and can be used as a sealant against water or air (so just imagine what it would do to your hair!). The good news? Silicone isn’t directly linked to any health issues. The bad news? You probably already have it in your shampoo. Just look for ingredients with “-cone” at the end, like cyclomethicone or dimethiconol.

Plaine Product’s also ditched parabens in their plastic free products, and for a pretty good reason. Basically a chemical preservative, parabens are used for antibacterial and antifungal reasons–which seriously aren’t needed unless you want your shampoo and conditioner to last you for decades. Best case scenario, they just irritate your skin or dry out your hair, but we recommend you stay clear of parabens all together, as studies have started looking at health impacts that may be linked to the chemical.

But there is a better way to wash. Plaine only uses natural, chemical-free, biodegradable ingredients in their hair care, perfect for any type of hair–from curly to fine and even color treated hair! The main ingredient, aloe, contains over 75 nutrients, including minerals and essential amino acids that nourish and revitalize the hair and scalp. The hardest part will be choosing between the volumizing Rosemary, Vanilla & Mint scent, or the Citrus and Lavender!

Plaine Products | Vegan Zero Waste Hair Care | EarthHero

Simply Soap

Plaine Product’s natural hand soap isn’t antibacterial… but that’s a good thing. According to the pros over at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there isn’t enough science to prove that antibacterial soaps can actually prevent illness any better than a good ole’ rinse with plain soap and water. Believe it or not, to this day, the benefits of antibacterial hand soap have never been proven. What the FDA does say though… is that using antibacterial soap, which contains the toxic chemicals triclosan and triclocarban, can potentially have negative health impacts if used widely, and over a long time.

Studies on animals have shown that triclosan can alter the way some hormones work in the body, raising questions about the impact on humans. While much more research is needed to prove that antibacterial soaps are safe, we prefer sticking to what we know is good for our skin–organic, vegan ingredients from nature, not a mad scientist lab.

Made without harsh chemical detergents, triclosans, or triclocarbans, Plaine Product’s hand wash (like all their awesome products) is vegan, hypoallergenic, baby safe, cruelty-free, with no animal testing, or toxic additives like PEGs, PGs, parabens, sulfates, dyes, synthetic fragrances, or petrochemicals (that’s a mouthful!). With natural aloe as the main ingredient, and essential oils from citrus and lavender, this hand soap gently washes away germs and bacteria on even the most sensitive skin.

Plaine Products | Zero Waste Vegan Hair Care | EarthHero

Your New Sustainable Shower

If we didn’t already blow your mind with everything Plaine Products has thought of when crafting their personal care–there’s more. Their products are Leaping Bunny Certified to be cruelty free, and their entire business is a member of 1% for the Planet as well as B Corp, joining 150+ businesses who hold themselves to rigorous third-party environmental and social standards. Plaine Products simply does business better, and we’re thrilled to welcome them to our conscious community of companies making an impact.

 

The Earth-Friendly Camping Checklist

Summer is officially here–and that means a whole lotta’ camping, hiking, swimming, biking, and soaking up the sun! While everyone loves spending quality time exploring nature, the products we use to stay comfortable when travelling often leave camp-sites and beach spots worse off than we found them. Our eco-friendly camping checklist ensures that you leave nothing but footprints, and make nothing but memories—not trash!

Reusable StrawsFinalStraw EarthHero

Have little ones on your trek? Or just love sippin’ through a straw? Ditch the polluting plastic straws and make the switch to a stainless steel, glass, or bamboo alternative. They keep your campsite clean and make it easy to sip on-the-go. Plus, the FinalStraw is collapsible, and comes with it’s own key-chain carrying case to make it a perfect camping companion. Combat the 500,000,000 single-use straws that get tossed every year with reusable straws!

 

Natural Bug Spray

Good for your skin, bad for the bugs. Typical bug sprays contain DEETs, or diethyltoluamides, that have been linked to negative health impacts, and are generally untested. Badger’s Bug Spray is different–using non-toxic & organic essential oils like citronella, rosemary, and wintergreen to naturally ward off pesky mosquitos. The recyclable stainless steel bottle travels easily without spilling, and contains no BPA’s, phthalates, or synthetic fragrances–so you can naturally repel bugs, without spraying chemicals everywhere.

All Good EarthHero Camping


Organic Geranium Deodorant

Summer sun can lead to… well… summer sweat. Fight odors the natural way with a 100% natural deodorant! With no toxic aluminum, parabens, phthalates or GMOs added, All Good deodorant relies on naturally-occurring organic enzymes to fight odor causing bacteria. Arrowroot powder dries out underarms, while aloe vera and calendula soothes sensitive skin. Goodbye sweaty pits and hello to a natural deodorant that actually works, wherever you roam.

 

Bamboo Utensils | Bambu | EarthHeroDouble-Sided Bamboo Utensil

Trail mix is great and all, but serious outdoor adventures need serious snacks. Instead of bringing single-use plastics to spoon up that soup or snack on a salad, just spork it! Made from sustainably harvested bamboo, this nifty tool combines the power of a fork and a spoon, in one little package. Plus, bamboo is naturally biodegradable, so if you happen to leave your spork behind, it will go back to nature in just a few short months.

 

Mineral Sunscreen | EarthHero | Goddess GardenNatural Sport Sunscreen Spray

When it comes to sunscreen, the phrase “reef-friendly” is popping up more and more…but what about if you’re not swimming? Does a reef-friendly sunscreen still matter? Yes! Natural sunscreens contain no ozybenzones, parabens, or phthalates–all of which are linked to some negative health impacts (for you, and marine life!) This toxin-free and water-resistant formula lasts for 80 minutes, giving you months of fun in the sun with every re-application.

 

Upcycled 6 Pack Holder | EarthHeroUpcycled 6-Pack Holder

Summer and ice-cold beer go together like organic peanut butter and homemade jelly! When the sun goes down and everyone’s gathered around the campfire, reach for this insulated 6-pack holder, made from upcycled nylon factory scraps. Simply strap the Sixer to your bike, and when you’re ready to sip, just undo the velcro straps and go! To date, Green Guru has diverted more than 517,900 pounds of materials from our landfills with their nifty collection of travel gear like this.

 

Stainless Steel Nesting Trio | U Konserve | EarthHero

Food Storage Nesting Trio

Snacks, on snacks, on snacks–all stacked! The plastic-free solution to camping meals that’s large enough to feed your whole tribe. The leak-resistant lids are paired with unshatterable stainless steel bases, so your travel pack won’t end up looking like your dinner. When you’re done chowing down, each tin nests inside the other, so everything can fit effortlessly in your trekking bag.

 

Brumi Portable Coffee Maker | Full Circle | EarthHeroPortable Coffee Maker

Rise and shine! If you need your daily cuppa’ Joe, wherever you go, we’ve got the travel essential for you. This innovative mug brews a perfectly balanced cup of coffee, every time, thanks to a patent-pending double brewing filter made from BPA-free Tritan and recycled plastic. Just boil water, add your favorite ground coffee beans, pour, and go!

 

Stainless Steel Wine Glasses

Ditch the red solo cup and upgrade to non-toxic stainless steel that leaves your drink tasting, well, like your drink (not plastic!) Vacuum-insulated and double-walled, this innovative tumbler keeps the exterior room temperature and condensation free, no matter what weather you run into. Plus, the drink-through lids keep liquids from spilling, so camping cleanup is minimal.

 

Klean Kanteen | Growler | EarthHeroInsulated Growler

Want to bring some beer or wine on your next adventure, without the breakable glass bottles? Before you hit the trails, head over to your local brewery and ask them to fill up this stainless steel growler! The threadless stainless steel interior keeps your beverage at tap-fresh temps for up to 40 hours, and ice frozen for up to 120 hours, so you’ll never have to drink warm (or flat) beer again.

 

Badger Skincare | EarthHero

Organic Aloe Vera Gel

We recommended a natural sunscreen for you, but if you didn’t take our advice, here’s a post-burn balm for sunburnt skin. It’s made from 96% pure certified organic and fair-trade aloe juice that naturally soothes and hydrates sun-parched skin. Cruelty-free and Leaping Bunny certified, this aloe vera gel is truly planet and people friendly. You never know when a bad burn can occur–so toss this essential in your travel pack and be ready for anything!

 

Stainless Steel Camping Plate

Plastic-free and nonbreakable, this stainless steel camping plate is perfect for life on-the-go. It has three different sections to keep food separate, comes in kids sizes, and is stackable and machine washable for easy clean up and travel.

 

Preserve | EarthHero | Camping Checklist

Recycled Plastic Food Storage Containers 

Need to bring up snacks, but don’t want the weight of stainless steel or glass? Preserve is using plastic for a purpose–recycling #5 plastics for their lightweight, durable, food storage containers in a variety of sizes. Their leakproof lids are perfect for messy backpacks, and are perfectly portioned so everything can stay organized.

 

Klean Kanteen | Stainless Steel Pint Cups | EarthHero

Stainless Steel Pint Cups

Keep the party going from the highest peaks to the lowest rivers with lightweight, stackable pint cups. Perfect for refueling around the campfire, or celebrating with new friends, they won’t shatter or break–and are a great swap for single-use cups that can trash any campsite if not disposed of properly.

 

Bluff Utility Travel Backpack

Now that we’ve covered all the camping checklist essentials, you’re gonna need a place to put everything. Don’t just toss it in any old rucksack, organize your trip with a 100% recycled polyester travel pack with enough pockets for everything you need (and a few things that you want).

 

On-the-Go Recycled Plastic Plates 

Preserve | EarthHero | Camping Checklist

Light enough to bring to the top of a mountain, but durable enough to not let you down when you get there. Preserve recycles yogurt cups, and other hard to recycle plastics, to be transformed into their BPA-free plates, utensils, and cups. Unlike typical plastic dishware, theirs won’t crack, warp, or break–even when put in the dishwasher.

 

EarthHero Camping Blog

Reusable Trash Bags

Did you know that studies estimate 309 million Americans used plastic trash can liners in 2018? Multiply this times several trash bags a week… and that’s a whole lotta’ single-use plastic coming just from trash bags! But these reusable, water-resistant bin liners are made from durable rPETe fabric that can be machine washed again and again to reduce reliance on single-use trash bags. Perfect for reducing the amount of waste at your campsite, just toss one in your backpack and bring it out after meals to contain snack packages and other single-use items.

 

 

 

Product Breakdown: Brush with Bamboo Toothbrushes

Sustainability starts at the source (materials, that is!). In our product breakdowns, we’ll break down what some of our favorite products are made of, why we love them, and how they got the EarthHero seal of approval. Join us as we break down the world’s first plant-based toothbrush below!

Brush with Bamboo | Plant-based toothbrushes | EarthHero

100% Organic Bamboo Handle

Did you know that over 4.7 billion non-biodegradable plastic toothbrushes are dumped in our landfills and oceans every year worldwide? Brush with Bamboo brushes are different–using natural bamboo, instead of toxic plastic, to create their innovative plant-based brushes. But this groundbreaking brush didn’t happen overnight. It took years of prototypes, trials, and tests to perfect the easy-to-grip curved handle that is the foundation of every brush!

But this bamboo handle isn’t just any panda food. Brush with Bamboo goes a step above, using CERES Certified 100% Organic wild Moso Bamboo, grown on Chinese mountain ranges without pesticides or fertilizers. Their sustainably grown bamboo is never watered by people, and uses only naturally occurring mountain rain for the most efficient watering experience. To protect the beautiful bamboo forests that Brush with Bamboo sources from, they’ve made a commitment to harvest less than 1% of the possible bamboo trees available to ensure healthy forests for generations to come.  

But–why bamboo? How is it better than wood? As you may know, bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth, growing 3-5 feet in height per year. Plus, it contains naturally-occurring antimicrobial agents, requiring no added chemicals to grow strong and tall. After Brush with Bamboo harvests a bamboo stalk for their brushes, another stalk takes its place and regrows to full size within just 2 years, keeping the bamboo forests a lush landscape for animals and local communities. Plus, the wild giant Moso bamboo they harvest isn’t consumed or lived in by pandas–so your brush protects the biodiversity and habitats of these endangered animals.

Brush with Bamboo | Plant-based toothbrushes | EarthHero

Plant-based Bristles

When it comes to the bristles, there’s more than meets the eye. Traditional plastic toothbrushes use (you guessed it!) plastic bristles that aren’t biodegradable either, and often wear out faster than you’d like. Brush with Bamboo’s plant-based bristles are made from 62% Castor Bean Oil and 38% Nylon, making it the latest and most advanced biobased (but not biodegradable) bristle on the market.

Prior to the invention of nylon in the 1930s, pig hair was used for all bristles, and remains the only biodegradable option to plastic bristles to this day. While it may seem great because it’s biodegradable, pig hair is a by-product of the meat industry, and is hard to source sustainably. Not only that, but this style of bristle can fall out easily, resulting in pig hairs floating around your mouth (no thank you!).

A leader in sustainable oral care, Brush with Bamboo is actively pushing bristle manufacturers to develop new alternatives to nylon. While no truly biodegradable bristle exists on the market today (that we’ve found!), plant-based bristles are a step in the right direction! When you’re done with your bamboo toothbrush, just use pliers to pull the bristles before composting the handle. Bonus points: check with your local speciality recycling center, some will be able to recycle the bristles!

Brush with Bamboo | Plant-based toothbrushes | EarthHero

Compostable Packaging

While a sustainable product is important, we know that packaging is just as impactful. We love Brush with Bamboo because they’ve committed themselves to a waste-less product, from start to finish. The bamboo toothbrush itself is wrapped in a compostable wrapper made from plants, with a biodegradable outer-box made from 100% paper, constructed without tape or glue. The plant-based wrapper is made from cellophane, made from plant cellulose naturally found in wood and wood pulp. Designed almost 120 years ago, this time-tested material is compliant with European and American compostability standards, and can be composted in your home compost or municipal facility. The biodegradable cardboard box can be repurposed, or simply tossed into your home recycling bin!

Brush with Bamboo | Compostable toothbrushes | EarthHero

Care + End of Life

  • Store your brush in a dry area: bamboo is a natural material that will last longest when kept in a dry area. We recommend an open-air toothbrush holder, or any dry surface!
  • Cleaning: you can wash and care for the plant-based bristles just like any toothbrush!
  • Handle: because bamboo is a natural wood, it will fade over time. The handle at the top portion of your brush (the part that goes into your mouth) may begin to appear lighter and faded with use. Don’t panic though–this won’t affect your brushing experience and is solely due to the properties of the untouched bamboo!
  • Lifespan: with some TLC this eco-friendly brush will last just as long as your plastic toothbrush (or longer!). We recommend you update your brush & bristles ever 3-4 months, or whenever the bristles begin to fray.
  • End of life: once you’ve removed the plant-based bristles, the bamboo toothbrush handle can be reused or commercially composted to return to the soil within 6 months. Not ready to compost? The handles are great plant markers, letting you organize your garden and keep track of what you’re growing!

Brush with Bamboo | Compostable toothbrushes | EarthHero

Certifications

  • Vegan & Cruelty Free: no animal testing, no animal parts. Just plant-based, from bristles to handle.
  • BPA-Free: every Brush with Bamboo toothbrush is verified chemical-free and BPA-free by independent US testing agencies.
  • CERES Certified Organic Bamboo Handle
  • Family Business: the Kumar family in California still owns and operates Brush with Bamboo, bringing their family values into every step of the process.
  • USDA Certified Biobased Bristles
  • Sustainably Harvested: the organic bamboo is grown wild in the Chinese mountains, and is sustainably harvested to ensure years of strong, healthy forests.
  • Made in the USA: the plant-based bristles are made right here in the United States, supporting local businesses and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation costs.

P.S. All Brush with Bamboo is 20% off for a limited time (they have bamboo straws, too!) Start brushing sustainably here!

 

The Lifecycle of a Plastic Straw

The Final Straw

If you’ve been paying attention recently, you’ve seen businesses and cities alike are banning plastic straws due to their inability to be recycled or biodegrade at the end of their life. If plastic straws aren’t busy taking up space in our landfills, they can usually be found polluting our oceans, disrupting marine ecosystems, and trapping nearby animals. At this rate, if we don’t cut back on our plastic usage, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 (!!!)

So why keep using single-use plastic straws if they’re so destructive towards the environment? While many of us are unaware just how bad it is for the planet to sip that iced coffee through a straw, others don’t think that their “small” amount of waste can have an impact. The truth is, when just a little bit of trash is created by a whole lot of people, thousands of tons of waste can be produced in mere minutes.

The good news? Straws don’t have to suck. With reusable options made from glass, bamboo, stainless steel, and even compostable materials, you can have your smoothie and sip it too! Join us below as we break down “the break down” of yucky plastic straws, and give you all the facts you need to buy a truly better alternative.

plastic-straw-microplastics

Used For Minutes, Here For Centuries

Invented in 1888, the modern straw was made from just paper strips and glue to solve a common issue: the natural rye straws once used to sip whiskey left a grassy taste that the new straws did not. Flash forward a century later, and paper straws have almost been entirely replaced by their plastic counterparts, made from a chemical called polypropylene (composed of molecules of toxic propylene gas!)

Polypropylene, and plastic for that matter, is designed to withstand being submerged in water without falling apart. In other words, they’re made to last (and last they do!) This chemical substance, called “petroleum bi-product polypropylene” in full, never biodegrades and can stay in our environment for thousands of years.

Believe it or not, every plastic straw that was ever created still exists in some form today, whether it be in a landfill or the ocean. To add salt to the wound, straws are often individually packaged in unnecessary paper or plastic, and they travel huge distances from the factory, to your dinner table, and then back to the landfill. Just think of all the carbon emissions that come from simply transporting all of these flimsy straws!

Once a plastic straw is used (which is usually about one drink long), it will get thrown away and hauled off to a waste management plant–if the wind hasn’t already blown it from your trash bin and into our waterways, that is! At the waste management plant, there’s three places your straw is likely to go: the incinerator, the ground, or the landfill. While the incinerator may sound like a better option because it completely eliminates your plastic straw, it also releases yucky toxic dioxins into the air that can settle onto our crops and eventually end up stored in our bodies. Depending on your city, they are sometimes buried in the ground, leaching more chemicals into the soil and groundwater than if they were sent to the landfill. Most disposable straws, however, end up in overflowing landfills, where they remain for centuries!

If you try the recycling route for your plastic straw, you’ll be shocked to find that most centers can’t recycle straws at all.  Many mechanical recycling sorters can’t identify the lightweight item, which increases the potential for them to slip through the sorter and contaminate entire recycling bundles (costing recycling plants time & money!) Despite your good intentions, it’s likely that your straw will still end up in the landfill, where it will outlive even your great, great, great grandchildren.

Garbage Patch Madness

Believe it or not, plastic straws are one of the top polluters on our beaches. Whether you recycle or toss it, the lightweight plastic can get blown by the wind into our waterways and rivers, at which point it’s nearly guaranteed that it will eventually end up in the ocean.

When trash floats around in our ocean, it often finds itself meeting other plastics in a gyre, aka a circular ocean current, where it can stay for years. The largest accumulation of trash in the world, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, covers a surface area twice the size of Texas!

While the straws may break down in size in these gyres, the materials are with us forever, and broken down plastic isn’t necessarily a good thing. When these plastics break down into particles less than 5 millimeters in size, they become microplastics. These small plastic “crumbs” are even easier for marine life to consume, and even harder (virtually impossible) to remove from the ocean. The problem has gotten so bad that at least 100 million marine mammals are killed each year from plastic pollution alone, as well as a countless number of fish.

plastic-straw-environmental-impacts

No straw, please…

Straws are everywhere–in your water glass at a restaurant, in your frappuccino to-go, and even in your vodka cranberry at the bar. Lucky for you, making the switch from single-use straws can be easier than you think! By simply saying “no straw, please!” when ordering, you can make a huge impact. With just three little words you can help reduce the number of straws that end up in our landfills or polluting the oceans, and show restaurants that consumer preferences are changing around plastic. That’s the power of voting with your dollar!

Remembering to say “no straw, please!” does take some getting used to, and some servers are bound to forget your special request. If you do get stuck with a plastic straw here and there, don’t give up! You can minimize the negative impact by making sure that your garbage bags are tied tightly before going to the landfill, so your straws don’t get carried away in the wind. Just keep up your no-straw efforts, and with enough consumer action, businesses will start to take notice.

And don’t worry… you’re not in this alone. Tons of environmental groups and nonprofits are taking a stand against single-use plastic straws, pushing for taxation or bans around the toxic accessory. Organizations like 5 Gyres envision a world free from plastic pollution, and even founded the Plastic Pollution Coalition to bring together businesses and leaders who support a plastic-free planet! But it doesn’t stop there. Innovative companies all over the world are popping up with plastic-free alternatives to the classic straw, using everything from bamboo, to glass, stainless steel, and even compostable paper. Not sure which is right for you? Join us as we break down the most sustainable options below!

Straws Don’t Have to Suck

Straws aren’t the problem–plastic is. By switching out one-time-use plastic straws for more durable versions that can last you years, you reduce the 1.6 straws tossed daily by the average American (which really adds up over time!)

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Simply Straws

Did you know that glass can be infinitely recycled? Unlike plastic alternatives, glass straws can last you for years when taken care of properly, and at the end of their life can be recycled again and again. Plus, they contain no toxic BPA’s that could leach into your hot drink, and are dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. From wide smoothie straws to thin sippin’ straws, Simply Straws has tons of fun colors for everyone to enjoy, all with a lifetime guarantee. Say hello to the last straw you’ll ever need with Simply Straws!

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Brush with Bamboo

For hundreds of years, natural bamboo straws were traditionally used in rural parts of India for drinking beer. Flash forward to today and those same hand-made straws are being crafted from sustainably grown bamboo for Brush with Bamboo’s organic drinking straws. Made from real whole bamboo stalks that haven’t been re-compressed or processed, these artisan-made straws are CERES Certified Organic and can be used with any drink. Plus, when you’re done with these durable vegan straws, you can toss them in any commercial compost (instead of the landfill!)

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U Konserve

There’s over 5 trillion pieces of plastic, weighing more than 250,000 pounds, floating in our oceans (that’s over 700 pieces of trash a person!) With U Konserve’s non-toxic stainless steel straws you can reduce plastic waste in your own home, and in our oceans. This certified B Corp promises BPA’s, phthalates, and lead stay out of your straw, so you can enjoy your drink without added chemicals. On top of that, the durable food-grade stainless steel is basically indestructible, so whether your straws are nestled in the bottom of your purse or tucked into the corner of the dishwasher, you’ll never have to worry about broken pieces!

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Bambu

Grasping for straws? Swap that disposable straw for this USDA Certified Organic bamboo straw from bambu. Biodegradable & compostable, these reusable bamboo straws are naturally cut from nature to make every sip a little more beautiful. Made from sustainably grown and harvested bamboo that’s ultra-durable for years of use, these naturally anti-microbial and water-resistant bamboo drinking straws are sure to become a favorite in your home.

Sip Smarter

Plastic pollution, and plastic straws specifically, has been getting more and more attention, as consumers like you become more educated about our impact on the planet. Join us as we take a stand against plastic straws! The little things we do have a big impact on the world, so lets make it a little cleaner by sucking the single-use plastic straws out of our lives.