Question 17 - Verbal Practice Test for the NLN PAX

According to the provided passage, how many straws are disposed of each year?

Have you ever stopped to think about the impact of something as small as the straw sticking out of your cup? Have you ever considered how it is affecting our marine ecosystems? Straws may be convenient for sipping on your favorite drinks, but they pose a significant threat to our oceans and all of the sea creatures that dwell in them.

Each time someone uses a plastic straw, they throw it away as soon as their drink is done. This means billions of straws are being thrown away each year, finding their way into our waterways and eventually ending up in the ocean. Their plastic, lightweight, and nonbiodegradable nature make them a persistent and dangerous pollutant in marine environments. The specific shape of straws, along with plastic rings from beverage packs, makes it easy for sea animals to choke, or for smaller animals to get caught within them.

Marine life, such as sea turtles, seals, and fish can easily mistake straws for food. Birds also tend to dive into the ocean when they spot something that resembles food, affecting an entirely separate ecosystem. When ingested, straws can cause internal injuries, blockages, and even death. Additionally, the plastic from straws breaks down into tiny particles known as microplastics, which can be ingested by smaller organisms and work their way up the food chain, potentially impacting larger marine animals and even, eventually, humans. It has gotten to the point in which some drinking water is testing positive for microplastics!

Thankfully, there are several simple steps that each of us can take to reduce the harm caused by straws:

  1. Say no to single-use straws. When dining out or ordering a drink, say no to a straw! Many restaurants now will ask if you want a straw prior to handing them out. If you really prefer using one, consider carrying a reusable alternative, such as a stainless steel or bamboo straw. They even make pocket-sized and keychain straws!

  2. Spread awareness. Educate your family, friends, and community about the harmful effects of straws on ocean life. Encourage them to join you in adopting straw-free habits and making choices that benefit our marine life.

  3. Support businesses that make a difference. Seek out establishments that have committed to reducing or eliminating the use of plastic straws. Many restaurants and cafes now use paper straws or offer lids that do not require straws at all. By patronizing these businesses, you are supporting their environmental efforts.

  4. Participate in cleanup activities. Volunteer to take part in beach or river cleanup events in your area. Oftentimes environmental advocate groups will host cleanups at beaches, parks, and outdoor spaces. These are not only good for the environment overall, but allow you to have a hand in the environmental progress of your community.

By collectively making small changes in our daily lives, such as those provided above, we can preserve our oceans and the creatures that call them home. Remember, every straw we reuse or remove from the environment is a step toward a healthier and more sustainable future.

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