NEW YORK, Dec. 17, 2018 (Fast company) -From the time they were first invented in 1888 through the middle of the 20th century, all straws were paper. Older people might remember trying to drink milkshakes through straws that fell apart after a few sips. Plastic slowly began to supplant paper in the 1950s, though, and paper straws were swiftly swapped out for the more durable alternative. By the late 1960s, Aardvark, a family-owned straw company that traces its origins back to the original paper straw, had completely switched its product to plastic.
While sturdier, though, those straws–along with other plastic products–wreaked havoc on the environment. Today, the world produces around 300 million tons of plastic, which is made from crude-oil chemicals that seep into waterways. Around 4% of global oil that’s extracted becomes plastic, and another 4% is used to power the manufacturing process. And once plastic is made, only around 9% of it is ever recycled–much of it ends up in the oceans, where it’s damaging marine life.
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