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Ocean of Plastic Straws


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The Change from Plastic to Paper

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What is the issue?

So here’s my plan!

As the oceans of our world continue to contaminate, it is clear that one main culprit is seen in all beaches: the plastic straw. These plastic straws lead to the marine debris that contaminate our oceans. Many believe that there are “degradable” plastic straws, they are never completely absorbed into the ecosystem and end up being broken into small pieces, which are in turn ingested by marine animals. More than 99% of sea birds have already ingested parts of, or multiple, plastic straws in their lifetime.

Not only so, all plastic straws take more than 200 years to degrade, and they even release harmful chemicals in the process of it as well. The harmful chemicals in turn lead to the acidification of our oceans.

This is an issue that affects all countries, especially places with high population density. This is why this problem has been extremely prominent in where I live, Hong Kong, as we produce almost 20% of the plastic straw waste each year. It is important to raise awareness of the cost of plastic straws, as something so little can pile up into harming the entire ecosystem.


Research

  1. An estimate of 8.3 billion straws is found on beaches each year as they are not completely degradable.
  2. It takes more than 200 years for plastic to degrade, and sometimes it cannot even fully degrade. They are sometimes broken into many pieces which in turn are ingested by animals.  
  3. 1 billion sea bird per year die from ingesting parts of straws, which ultimately end up choking them or staying in their body. More than 99% of sea birds have already ingested some form of plastic straws.
  4. More than 500 million plastic straws are used in the U.S. each year
  5. There are degradable plastic straws, but they do not fully degrade and still lead to the same issue.
  6. Biodegradable paper straws are much less harmful to sea creatures and also to the environment as they don’t emit harmful chemicals into the ocean.
  7. 80-90% of marine debris is from plastic.
  8. Plastic lets out harmful chemicals such as DDT which contaminate the water, and lead to an increase of the acidity of oceans.
  9. Hong Kong residents use 1.4 billion straws each year
  10. More than 830 schools are launching a no-straw ban in Hong Kong, along with the no straw day.

User Needs

My plan is to promote the use of paper and metal straws, rather than completely banning straws. I think that this can help address the functionality aspect of sustainable designs. Many people who have physical disabilities are in need of straws, meaning that it is unfair for us to promote the banning of straws completely.

Next, it is not necessary for all straws to go away- it is simply the plastic ones that harm the environment the most. If we ban all straws, the movement would lose support as we take away what people need, straws.

Instead, it is better for us to provide an alternative solution by changing the materials of the straws. This ensures functionality and also sustainability for the use of straws, as changing from plastic to paper or metal straws is something easier than simply banning the entire use of straws.

Here’s a video further explaining the effects of plastic straws…

Citations

“A Diver’s Quest against Pollution through Beach and Ocean Clean-Ups.” South China Morning Post, 9 Mar. 2019, www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/society/article/2189140/hong-kong-scuba-divers-one-woman-mission-fight-marine.

“About Us.” The Last Plastic Straw, thelastplasticstraw.org/about-us/.

Gibbens, Sarah. “A Brief History of How Plastic Straws Took over the World.” Plastic Straw Bans Are Spreading: Here’s How They Took over the World, 3 Jan. 2019, www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/07/news-plastic-drinking-straw-history-ban/.

“Last Straw Call for Plastics.” The Standard, www.thestandard.com.hk/section-news.php?id=196496&sid=4.

Sharpmead, Patrick, et al. “How Is Plastic Totally Ruining The Oceans In The Worst Way Possible?” Marine Insight, 9 Feb. 2019, www.marineinsight.com/environment/how-is-plastic-ruining-the-ocean/.

“Why This Matters.” For A Strawless Ocean, www.strawlessocean.org/faq.

The Plan

My plan is to create an infographic that allows people to understand the extent of how much straws can harm the environment. For me, I’ve never really realized the degree of how bad plastic straws were. I always think to myself, one little straw won’t do any harm, but when you think about it, if everyone did that, that is when the real harm is done.

I think that by creating posters that are posted everywhere, especially in restaurants, people would raise awareness of the harm that they are doing to the environment. I am sure that most people would not mind switching to paper straws, as they do pretty much the exact same thing as plastic straws, but they are much more environmentally friendly than plastic straws.

Design Alternatives
One design alternative that I believe may be interesting is creating a collection of photos of all the restaurants/ schools that have a straw ban. I hope that this would inspire many more restaurants to do the same thing, as they would not believe that it is something that only 1 restaurant does, but instead an entire movement. I think that especially in Hong Kong, it has been something extremely effective as the government has pushed forward a “Plastic Free July” and also a “No Straw Day” that enforced the straw ban policy.   

Local Issue

This issue is something that affects the entire world, including Hong Kong. As Hong Kong is a major trade port and one of the most population dense countries in the world, it produces almost 20% of all annual plastic straw waste in the world. This shows how if we change Hong Kong, it can help with the entire world as well. As my school is right next to many of the beaches in Hong Kong, whenever we visit any of them, we can see how the plastic straws have influenced the beaches. Many of the times they are scattered on the shores or sometimes even entangled on the birds. In our school, we have many green initiatives that tackle this issue by conducting beach cleanups, but also banning plastic straws in the cafeteria or Starbucks. I think this effectively deals with the plastic straw waste that our school produces, as now they only serve biodegradable paper straws.

Catalyzing the Issue

The main objective of my presentation is to be able to create something easily comprehensible that raises awareness of the current issue. By using simple data and statistics, it can create a piece that people can easily read and understand. This issue is something easily swept under the rug as it is something that many are not aware of the degree of long term damage it can create just by a small little straw. By adding the consequences of the damage that people often ignore as they believe it is not an issue, it can help give perspective on the degree of harm straws in all do to the environment.

Limited Background

I think that this is an important issue to address as many are simply ignorant of this issue, even myself before researching. I found that most people simply underestimate the harm of straws as they’ve never fully grasped the degree of how often people use plastic straws. As it is something so small, people don’t usually realize what it can do when there are so many of them. I think for my project, the main approach has to be by making it simple for people to see how much these plastic straws harm our environment. Without raising awareness, people will continue to use them, resulting in more harm to the environment.

Design Process

Initial brainstorm

With my sketches, I want to create an infographic that brings the audience’s eyes from one part to another. I think that this will be successful if the images are captivating enough, rather than filled with data. I think that having too many words can often make the design boring and ineffective.

Layout Photos: I combined many of the designs to create a bigger infographic, and here are my initial combinations. I wanted to make sure to keep the words to a limit, with more drawings and designs on the page than words.

Design 1

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Here is my least favorite design as I really disliked how it was slanted, and I felt like it made it much harder to read and also to understand. I also felt like the spacing led to each part looking less important/ more important than another. I wanted something even rather than asymmetrical.

Design 2

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Here is my second least favourite plan, as I disliked how the straws were aligned at the top. I thought that it gave a weird rhythm to the paper and it grabbed attention in areas that were wrong. Not only so, but the paper looked a lot more cramped and messy.

Design 3

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This was one of my favourites, but I thought that it was a little too simple and it was hard to put statistics into the poster. If I did, it would make it look too full and messy. I didn’t want it to crowd the viewer’s eyes and instead lead to others not wanting to read the content because there were too many words.

Design 4

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I combined parts of each design and then I came up with this one, however, I was still unhappy with how there were straws in the turtle on the paper side. I thought that it did not make any sense. Also, many of the words were slanted and it made it look unprofessional and it was also distracting. I also found that the “straw” title at the top should’ve been more emphasized, so I decided that the cursive did not fit.

Final Design

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This was my final layout decision, however, I changed up the spacing a little when I was going over it with a black marker. I thought that the cursive on the paper side helped to highlight the “elegance” of using paper, whereas the hard lettering on the left shows contrast and emphasizes its “monstrosity”. I also lined each of the title letterings with a ruler to make sure each part was straight when I lined it with a black marker and created a straw-like pattern for the word at the top.

Developmental Photos: Photos of each stage of the process.

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Stage 1: I finished lining the top letterings, colored in most of the words. I used green to show eco-friendly things, and I used red to show how hazardous plastic is.
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Stage 2: Finish lining the bottom section of the page

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Stage 3: Finish the coloring of the bottom part

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Stage 4: Shading the entire background grey to create a neutral tone to bring out the rest of the colors.
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Stage 5: Add the explanations + final embellishments

FAST CHAT FORUM ON REDDIT: Post your thoughts and any reactions to this post!: Click here or follow the link below!

https://www.reddit.com/user/linnachenn/comments/bcz5hg/plastic_to_paper_straws/?ref=share&ref_source=linkC

Do you use a paper, plastic, or metal straw?
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Paper 🙂
Metal 😀
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COMMENTS: 7
  1. April 26, 2019 by Abby Sekoff

    I love this project. The infographics are a really cool way to convey your message. It is very relevant in todays society! My town recently went plastic straw free — now most places are using paper or cardboard like straws. My family personally has been using reusable straws for about a year.
    One question I have is how do you plan on sharing this? Posting the infographic around? Sharing it to restaurant and public places?

    • April 30, 2019 by Lina.Chen

      Hi Abby,
      It is amazing what your family does. This can definitely be shared through the methods you said. That is honestly one of the easiest ways to promote this movement without using social media.

  2. April 26, 2019 by Payton.Nesby

    I really appreciate how thoroughly you addressed all of the issues relating to this issue! My school has started using paper straws this year because so many students and parents came to the school asking them to make a change.

    • April 30, 2019 by Lina.Chen

      Hi Payton. Thank yo! That is amazing of your school to do. At my school, we banned straws and we have to pay 1 HKD ( around 10 cents) to buy a reusable straw.

  3. April 26, 2019 by Annabel.Sumardi

    I love how you showed the process in creating the infographic, and it ended up looking really nice! My family recently started using reusable straws, but my school still uses plastic versions. Ending this problem is a great step towards more sustainable living.

    • April 30, 2019 by Lina.Chen

      Hey Annabel! Have you ever thought of possibly proposing a new movement in your school to change it to reusable straws, or even banning straws to ensure people buy metal ones?

  4. May 02, 2019 by Erika Homan

    The statistics you gave were so shocking to me and really helped demonstrate the legitimacy of this issue. Also, I really like your infographic and I think it was the perfect way to present given your topic. It was really cool to see your design process evolve to the final product.

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