How Bubble Tea Culture Contributes to the Plastic Pollution Crisis

How Bubble Tea Culture Contributes to the Plastic Pollution Crisis

Jan 06, 2020Mandy Yeung
Image by Monica Volpin from Pixabay

Like most people, I am totally down for bubble tea after every meal. As they say, boba all day, every day! Not too long ago, I was blissfully ignorant in consuming my boba, not thinking twice about the plastic cups, plastic lids, and plastic straws I was tossing away after each single use. I told myself, I recycle, so it means there's no problem, right? Unfortunately, I was wrong.

With a little help from the internet, and after watching movies like A Plastic Ocean (included on Netflix), Plastic China (included in Amazon Prime), and The Story of Stuff (watch on YouTube), I learned that contrary to popular belief, recycling isn't a magical system where if you sort your trash properly, plastic automatically gets processed to become reusable again.

Recycling only works if there's market demand for post-consumer recyclables, so recyclers and companies are willing to pay for your trash. If demand is not there, or if the quality of your recyclable is dirty and not reusable, no matter how well you sort your trash, it all ends up in the incinerator or a landfill (so next time you toss a pizza box with leftover cheese in the recycling bin, know that no one else is going to manually extract the cheese from the cardboard for you, so the pizza box becomes worthless and does not get recycled).

Plastic pollution is a serious problem as plastic finds its way to our oceans and photodegrades from the sun's UV rays. The plastic breaks up into smaller pieces in the ocean, which unsuspecting marine animals swallow as food, poisoning them, and if it doesn't kill the animal, it comes back to poison us when the plastic toxin finds its way up the food chain. We can get into all the horrific statistics of how plastic pollution is killing animals, destroying ecosystems, and poisoning our planet every single second of the day, all day, every day, but instead of wasting valuable time doing that, I belief we need to act now.

I started bobagreen as a way to raise awareness around the plastic pollution crisis, and it's a nice bonus that I happen to love bubble tea and believe more people should learn about this fun and tasty drink. Bubble tea is not going anywhere, but all of us will have to pay the price for the accelerating rate of consumption of single-use plastics due to our human needs to take a pic and share our delightful looking drinks with our friends.

The photos normalize the idea that bubble tea is served in a plastic cup with a plastic lid with a plastic straw, but it doesn't have to be this way. Before you post your next boba picture, consider consuming your bubble tea in a glass cup, with a stainless steel straw instead. Social media has the ultimate power to influence and create change. Please don't waste it by mindlessly sharing plastic bubble tea pictures like I once did. Be thoughtful about your life choices today. Future you and future generations will thank you.

P.S. Plastic manufacturers brush off environmental concerns with "plastic waste is no problem, just recycle it!" but that's easy to say when they do not have the responsibility of actually recycling the products they make. Learn more about the intricacies of recycling with National Geographic's 7 things you did not know about plastic and recycling article.

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