Most everything we touch will, at some point, become trash. That to-go box will end up in a landfill. The vending machine will break down. Your laptop, cell phone, clothing, shoes, instruments, pots, pans, washing machine — all trash-to-be, waiting to enter a global system of buyers, sellers, diggers and dumpers we don’t much think about. We leave our trash and recycling bags on the sidewalk with peace of mind, indifferent to what happens after.

I’m not holier than thou (though I do ride a bike). I rarely think about these things. My recycling habits are inconsistent at best, my consumer practices wasteful. I’m guilty of using what became, this summer, the Environmental Enemy of the Year: straws.

As you’ve surely heard, straws litter our oceans. They’re getting lodged in turtles’ nostrils. They’re floating down Hinkson Creek, into the Missouri River, down to the Mississippi and depositing into the Gulf of Mexico.They’re also in our recycling bins and in our landfills. Straws’ ubiquity shocked us, so companies took charge: Starbucks said it would remove single-use straws by 2020. Disney, by 2019. The movement has localized: Barred Owl made the switch to metal straws this year, and La Siesta has stopped providing straws unless you ask.

After all, straws account for a small sliver of the persisting concerns around plastic. Five-hundred billion plastic cups are used worldwide each year, 1 trillion single-use plastic bags, 141 million metric tons of plastic packaging. All the while, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — a gargantuan mass of plastic waste equal to the weight of 500 jumbo jets and covering a space two-and-a-half times the size of France — idles in the ocean.

“It’s not a bad thing for people to push for plastic straw bans,” writes Kaitlin Raimi, a social psychologist and professor of public policy at the University of Michigan, in an email. “Tackling plastic pollution will require institutional change as well.”

Read the full article at Vox.