SupplementsSustainability

Recycling Revolution Spawns New, Innovative Products, Solutions

With the turn of the new year, 2019, twins Misook and Anne Corley found themselves ushering in both their 21st birthdays, and a new, environmentally-conscious city, as restaurants and other service businesses in the District, officially banned the use of single-use, plastic straws. New to the nation’s capital, the ban kicked off in July 2018 in Seattle and has since moved across the nation and into major food chains.

“It was a bit weird at first to drink from a paper straw and feel the texture was not plastic, but it caught on because we all want to do our part for the environment,” Misook told The Informer. “As a daily iced latte drinker, it made more sense for me to purchase and carry a tumbler and reusable straw than keep using paper and plastic products that harm the environment.”

“It’s something we did not even consider initially,” Anne added. “We were quick to recycle bottles, glass and paper at home, but we never really thought about how much waste we contributed to those landfills.”

Biodegradable straws have taken the place of plastic straws in restaurants across the nation, including McDonald's. (Courtesy photo)
Biodegradable straws have taken the place of plastic straws in restaurants across the nation, including McDonald’s. (Courtesy photo)

In just the U.S. alone, one estimate suggests 500 million straws are used every single day. One study published earlier this year estimated as many as 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s beaches. Reusable and eco-friendly straws are now more in vogue than ever before. PLA is one of the most commonly found plastic straw substitutes these days, but you can now find straws made from cardboard, paper, bamboo, and grain, with differing levels of biodegradability.

“At this moment, the global PLA [plant-based plastic] and paper straw market is very stressed, and product delivery has been delayed across the board,” David J. Fridland, who works on sustainability for food service provider Eco-Products, said. “We view this as an extremely positive trend that will get more and more brands and companies on the zero-waste journey.”

Similarly, the German sportswear giant Adidas, has increased its environmental push through its ecological group Parley for the Oceans. Parley intercepts plastic waste at the shoreline before it enters the sea, to create its spring 2019 Outdoor footwear line. Adidas then recycled the material for the knitted uppers of its sneakers. Zero-dye technology contributed to the monochrome design, which requires fewer chemicals and less energy and water to produce. In addition to being eco-friendly, the shoes are super stylish and affordable.

“We also continue to improve our environmental performance during the manufacturing. This includes the use of sustainable materials, the reduction of CO2 emissions and waste prevention,” said Gil Steyaert, who is responsible for Adidas global operations, in a statement. “In 2018 alone, we saved more than 40 tons of plastic waste in our offices, retail stores, warehouses and distribution centers worldwide and replaced it with more sustainable solutions.”

Recently, Adidas signed the Climate Protection Charter for the Fashion Industry at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland — and agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent before 2030.

Starbucks plans to phase out plastic straws by 2020. McDonald’s recently announced it will ban plastic straws at its U.K. and Ireland restaurants.

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