EFRI became the first higher education
institution in CEE (Central and Eastern Europe) that is discontinuing
The Faculty of Economics and Business in Rijeka
decided to replace all disposable plastic items with available alternatives. That
will make us the first scientific teaching institution in CEE, which is
actively committed to the work environment without plastic waste. The European
Parliament passed a law that will prohibit disposable plastic items such as plates,
cutlery, drinking straws etc. in the EU as of 2021. According to data from the European
Commission, more than 80% of marine waste is plastic, and products covered by
the new law at the European Union level make up 70% of marine waste.
Plastic items are manufactured in a few
seconds; they are used for a few minutes after which they end up in a junkyard
where they need a few hundred years to break down. Except for the fact that by
the year of 2050 the plastic in our oceans will surpass the number of fish, the
harmful impact of plastic straws to the health of people may serve as an
additional motivation to replace them with acceptable alternatives, such as
biodegradable paper straws, glass straws or something else.
University of Rijeka, Faculty of Economics and Business
is especially devoted to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption,
etc, confirmed by the fact that we are the first higher education institution
in Central and Eastern Europe that has calculated its carbon footprint. With
the same aim, University of Rijeka, Faculty of Economics and Business has
discontinued disposable plastic items, taking concrete steps to encourage
employees and students to develop environmental awareness and action
Plastic Straws – Scourge for the
environment, but also human health
Apart from the obvious negative
impact on the environment, there are a number of health reasons that make it
necessary to eliminate straws once and for all.
A single plastic straw is
manufactured in seconds; we use it for 10 minutes, after which it most likely ends
up in a junkyard (or worse, in the environment, where it takes 500 years to break
down. Therefore, straws are only one of the plastic products for disposable use
covered by the European Commission's proposals for the reduction of plastic
waste. They target 10 plastic products that are most commonly found on the
European beaches or in the sea, and together they make 70 percent of all
plastic objects in the sea. In addition to the European Commission's
initiative, some companies (such as Starbucks and McDonald's) announced the
removal of plastic straws.
But apart from being a real scourge
for the environment, they don't seem to be as harmless as they may seem for human
health. An article published in the Washington Post has cast a light on the
second negative effect of plastic straws: their direct influence on human
health. According to the author Christy Brissette – a nutritionist and a dietician
- except for the obvious negative impact on the environment, there are a number
of health reasons that it is necessary to eliminate straws once and for all.
To begin with, drinking through a straw
could cause more air to enter the digestive system, increasing the probability
of bloating and gasses. Also on the list is the greater risk of cavity (because
straws direct the sweet and sparkling beverages directly to certain teeth) and
even wrinkles because the regular use of straws can lead to the same kind of wrinkles
around the lips that smokers have.
According to Brissette, materials
and chemicals used in manufacturing plastic straws can also be a great cause
for concern. It is suspected that one of them, polypropilen, can penetrate the
water and influence the levels of estrogen in humans. Therefore, it is
recommended to avoid all other plastic products, especially if they come in
contact with food, as plastic generally poses a threat to health by releasing Endocrine
disruptors which are chemicals that interfere with the hormonal work.
Except for the fact that by the year
of 2050 the plastic in our oceans will surpass the number of fish, this should
serve as an additional motivation to forget the plastic straws and replace them
with acceptable alternatives, such as biodegradable paper straws, steel or
Plastic straws are becoming a big
taboo, especially in the case of big companies. Starbucks plans to put them out
of use by the year 2020. Seattle was the first city that implemented the
"plastic” rule by completely removing all similar plastic products from cafes
and various businesses. San Francisco should be the next city to implement this
rule. But the straw is just the tip of that big plastic iceberg. During the
2015 plastic products on the world level amounted to about 300 million metric
tonnes. According to that it is calculated that each of 7.6 billion people in
the world annually produces 25.3 tonnes of plastic waste. Another big problem
is the industry of plastic packaging that is still rising. It seems that straws
are actually just a part of the problem, but many will say they are a good
start to solving the problem. "Straws are what we perceive as the beginning of
what we hope will lead people to think about how much damage global plastic pollution
does. Straws are designed for short and disposable use and after that they
become garbage, "Dianna Cohen of Plastic Pollution Coalition said. The
straw is only a part of the problem, and Cohen is one of the ones on the way to
convincing people how it's necessary to use less plastic. And start right away.
Another big concern are human habits
or our inability to step away from plastic. It is normal nowadays to dine out
or use food delivery and most of the time that includes plastic containers that
are thrown out after one use. But food is not the only problem. More than 79
percent of plastic waste ends up in the dumps or somewhere in the countryside,
no matter what bin you throw your plastic into. The other 12 percent gets incinerated
in the incineration plants, so the particles end up in the atmosphere. Only
around the remaining nine percent end up recycled. This is data from the report
in Science Advances published in 2107. "It’s great what Starbucks announced
about straws, but just take a look at how much more plastic they have. It's all
funny.”, said Cohen. Other companies don't reduce the use of just straws. Recently,
the food giant Aramark, a company that co-operates with schools, prisons,
hospitals in 19 countries across the world, announced it would reduce the use
of straws by 60% by the year of 2020. The use of straws will only be left for
persons with special needs that need help drinking fluids. They announced they
were going to cut down the use of plastic utensils, plastic bags and ' various
packaging materials ', writes Business Insider. Every piece of plastic produced
in the world starts as a product from a piece of coal, oil or natural gas. They
were natural polymers, including materials like animal horns and rubber, but
the kind of plastic that we are using as packaging today didn't exist until
1907 when the first synthetic plastic was made from fossil fuel-Bakelite. Because of
the way these new polymers are processed a large amount of plastic can never be
fully recycled. That is what once made them special, compared to fragile
objects made of glass and porcelain. But today, this indestructibility of
plastic that remains in landfills, on roads or in nature, is a big problem, especially
since it remains there for thousands of years without decomposing.
The plastic that straws are made of can
be recycled, in theory, but in most cases it is not quite so. All of these
straws end up either in landfills or in large ships that are that are getting
scarce and are transporting the garbage to China. Some straws will end up in
the seas, and become part of what is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a
vast glacier of rubbish of about 79 thousand tons. Scientists who have studied
this pile of rubbish say it's twice as big as Texas, and it's floating
somewhere between Hawaii and California. Experts have discovered that it is a
water pit of garbage and illegal landfills that are trapped in the ocean
currents. Report from the 2018 showed that "more than 99.9 percent” of it is
plastic, but it is not just straws. The plastic items they identified included
containers, bottles, lids, bottle caps, packing strips, ropes and fishing nets.
In most cases, those who protest against plastic are choosing straws because of
a photo from 2015 which depicts a sea turtle with a straw stuck in his nose.
Initially, experts thought it was a parasite, but soon they realised it was a
straw. They have successfully removed it, but the problem of the plastic in the
sea still remains. "She became our motive for the poster. The turtle from the
poster", Cohen said. Debates are now being led on whether the reduction of
straw use will lead to new actions. Maybe people will think they've done enough
and won't change their other habits. Researchers who have studied these human
patterns say that some people are going to be encouraged to do even more, but
some will just stop and think they've already done enough.
In order to change behaviour, a lot more needs
to be done. Some countries have gone with a more aggressive approach. Morocco,
which used to be full of plastic bags banned production, sales, and imports of
plastic bags in the year of 2016. Rwanda was one of the first countries in the
world to ban plastic bags in 2008. California and Hawaii followed the example.
India will have disposable plastic banned by 2020. In Great Britain, on the
insistence of Queen Elizabeth II, the royal estate will not be using straws or plastic
bottles. But there is historical evidence that Americans can change the way
they behave, improve environmental protection with monitoring the development
of the economy. During the sixties of the last century, unregulated pollution
caused a series of problems across the United States, from rivers in flames,
oil spills and asthma attacks associated with the exhaust fumes of the car. The US has
not completely solved any of these problems, but during the seventies they have
started to regulate their use, which has not harmed the country's economy, and
has improved the health of its inhabitants. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) has helped promote a simple slogan ' Reduce, recycle and reuse '. Cohen
hopes to add to that and ' decline ', in terms of refusing to use plastic trash
baskets wherever you are. Psychologists will agree and say how difficult it is
to change habits, but psychologist John Bargh emphasizes that ' the more
something is practiced, the less effort is needed to do it '. Cohen advises you
should start carrying your own containers. "It will be an exciting novelty, and
in fact it is something that our parents and their parents did", she
emphasizes. She will admit herself that she adores straws, and she still uses
them but in alternative versions of paper, flexible steel and glass. "Plastic
seem like a cheap option because all the expense it leaves on the oceans and
animals is invisible. But disposable plastic use is inconvenient for our
health, for the health of the oceans, for the health of the wild world in the
oceans and on the mainland.” Cohen emphasizes.
20 ways to use less
plastic in our everyday lives
large stores, you can find linen, mesh reusable bags for fruits and vegetables.
That way you'll get rid of a bunch of nylon baggies you have to use to weigh
every fruit and vegetable. Besides, you can use them in any store, wash at
home, and use them again anytime.
using plastic straws, even in restaurants. If you really need to use straws,
buy those that are not disposable.
or make your own bag or a linen bag that you can use multiple times and of
course occasionally wash it. One plastic bag can take up to 1000 years to
dissolve. Keep them in your car, in your bag, near the door or wherever it's
easiest for you to remember to take it to the store.
Avoid the rubber bands because they're made of
synthetic rubber, or plastic.
products in cardboard boxes instead of plastic packaging. Products like laundry
detergent or rice, pasta, etc. Are often packaged in cardboard boxes that are
much easier to recycle than plastic.
food, like cereal, pasta, rice, dried fruits etc. from the large containers, and
fill your linen bag with the amount you need. It saves money, but more
importantly it saves the environment.
glass jars to store your pasta, cereal, tools, and cosmetic products. Buy
plastic storage containers as less as possible.
beverages, use bottles or cups designed for multiple uses.
your own food container with you to the restaurant when you are taking food to
go. Many restaurants use Styrofoam, and that's really not necessary.
matches instead of disposable plastic lighters, or get a metallic lighter that can
a glass bottle and carry in it in order to reduce the use of plastic water
bottles. The micro plastic was found in them, too.
Avoid buying frozen food because their
packaging is mostly plastic. Even when it appears to be in a cardboard box,
actually, that also has a thin layer of plastic.
use plastic utensils at home, make an effort and wash the dishes after a party.
linen diapers for kids instead of the disposable ones.
yourself a freshly squeezed juice or eat fresh fruits and vegetables instead of
buying juice in plastic bottles. That's never as healthy as homemade juice.
your own cleaning products using non-harmful ingredients like lemons, baking
soda and vinegar. Except for not damaging your health and saving the
environment from spilling chemicals into the drain, you'll reduce the use of
plastic packaging in which cleaning products often come in.
your school or work lunch with you in a container or a multi-use bag.
Buy fresh fruits and vegetables instead of finely
sliced ones in plastic packaging.
Instead of a disposable razor, get the one
that has a changeable blade, because even then less plastic will end up in
of your cosmetics - choose bars of soap instead of liquid, use pads made out of
100%cotton, use wooden brushes and combs, bamboo toothbrushes...