Plastic straws: US consumers use 500 million drinking straws like these every day | Photo: Creative Commons

Do we really need a plastic straw to drink a glass of water? Here are a few things you didn't know about the most short-lived drinking tool ever created.

They're everywhere, and we use them for drinking soda, water, coffee, milkshakes, and many other beverages.

But the worst thing is that they're only used once and immediately discarded.

Could we live without plastic drinking straws? Yes, we could. And how would putting them aside change our planet for the better? That's an easy one.

It would save the lives of millions of marine animals and seabirds and reduce the amount of plastics ending up in our oceans and landfills.

Make no mistake: these drinking tools are among the top 10 marine debris items.

Unfortunately, most plastic straws are made from polypropylene - a petroleum-based plastic - and don't get recycled.

Numbers and Actions

Every single day, US consumers use over 500 million plastic straws. In other words, 182,500,000,000 straws are used every year only in the United States.

They could be used to wrap the earth's circumference 2.5 times a day. But the effort to reduce the number of plastic straws must involve consumers, businesses, and schools.

Saying "no" to plastic straws requires a simple action.

If you start the movement at your local restaurant or favorite fast-food chain, they'll get the message and realize they could save money by banning them.

But if you still think you need them in your daily life, get yourself a washable and reusable drinking straw made from stainless steel, glass, paper, or bamboo, and make a difference.

Several start-up companies are producing great alternatives to traditional plastic straws. Switching to eco-friendly solutions will have a profound impact on the environment.

Learn how to reduce the use of plastics.

Top Stories

The number of seaside communities whose beaches are losing sand is growing exponentially. What are the explanations for coastal erosion, and what can be done to mitigate its devastating impact?

Welcome to the Drake Passage, the world's most dangerous sea route, home to 65-foot-plus waves. Here's why the 620-mile stretch between Cape Horn and Antarctica is treacherous and has become the ultimate extreme sailing adventure.

There is a place on Earth where the difference between low and high tide reaches 53.6 feet (16.3 meters). It's the Bay of Fundy in Canada. You've got to see it to believe it.

A fourth global coral bleaching wave is sweeping the world's oceans.