Plastic straw recycling is on the rise.
More than 1.5 million tonnes of plastic straws were recovered from Australian waterways in the year to June 2017, with almost half of the total being discarded in plastic bags.
However, many of the recycled straws end up in landfill.
This week, the Australian Government announced plans to phase out plastic straw collection, arguing that straws are a ‘dangerous’ waste product.
According to a report by The Australian, Australian authorities have been struggling to deal with the increasing number of discarded straws over the past five years.
In the past three years, the number of recycled straw collection sites has increased from 18 to 25 in the first quarter of 2018.
This is a rise of almost 70 per cent, and the amount of straw that is collected has increased by 50 per cent over the same period.
The government has also begun to reduce the amount that can be collected from its own collection sites, with a total of 13 sites now being considered safe for collection.
The plan to phase-out straw collection is not without controversy.
Critics of the government’s approach argue that the recycling of straws is being done with plastic bags, and is being seen as an example of a ‘safe’ approach.
They point to the large amount of waste generated by the straw collection industry, which has been found to contain the same toxic substances as plastic bags and is therefore less of a threat to the environment.
‘This is not a sustainable solution,’ Dr Daniela D’Angelo from the Environmental Working Group told the ABC.
‘The waste that we’re collecting from straw is actually the same as plastic.
It’s just a lot more toxic and is just a waste product of the waste industry.’
In a statement to the ABC, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) said it had made progress in reducing the number and quality of straw collection site visits.
The department said the reduction in site visits was due to ‘increasing awareness and compliance’ with the policy.
However some of the straw collectors argue that recycling straw is a safer and more environmentally friendly option than recycling plastic.
They say the more that is recycled, the more land that can also be cleared for use.
‘We’re not doing this to get rid of plastic but to make it easier for people to collect the waste in the future,’ one straw collector told the Australian.
‘It’s a better way to get the straw into the ground and that’s what we’re trying to achieve.’
There are people who have been recycling straw for quite a while and have seen that it’s actually a much cleaner option to recycle plastic than straw.’