Drinking straws have been popular since the 1800s, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that plastic straws were widely used. Today, excessive consumption of these straws – used for an average of just 20 minutes – is doing a huge amount of damage to our environment.

Plastic straws are one of the many single-use plastics that litter our planet, which is why thousands of businesses are joining the global movement to ditch plastic drinking straws as part of campaigns like #TheLastStraw, One Less Straw and Refuse the Straw.

London City Airport, JD Wetherspoon, Wagamama, Pizza Express, Pret A Manger and Costa Coffee – to name a few – have all pledged to end the use of plastic drinking straws in favour of biodegradable alternatives.

These announcements follow the government’s pledge to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste in the next 25 years.

The new green plan to combat plastic pollution includes ending the exemption of small shops from England’s 5p carrier bag charge, encouraging plastic-free supermarket aisles and creating a new environmental watchdog. The plan also covers the care of wildlife in the face of land lost to intensive farming, housing and development as well as changing local planning rules to boost biodiversity and designating new marine conservation areas.

When it comes to plastic pollution, single-use straws are one of the worst offenders. It’s estimated that a staggering 8.5 billion are thrown away every year in the UK alone, while America uses over 500 million in a single day – enough straws to wrap around the earth’s circumference 2.5 times!

Plastic straws have not only made their way into countless landfill sites but are polluting our oceans. Every year 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals die from ingesting plastic, and according to the Marine Conservation Society, single-use straws are one of the top 10 items found during beach cleanups.

Sadly, this is just one example of extreme waste being generated for our convenience. But, with such high publicity surrounding this issue and so many campaigns empowering and educating the public on damage caused by plastic pollution, businesses and individuals are starting to get the message.

Many of the above businesses have already begun to introduce alternatives such as paper straws or will only give a straw on request, and as consumers, we can all commit to refusing the straw.

There is still a long way to go to rid our planet of preventable plastic waste, but straws are a great place to start.