Straws are not disposed of properly in many cases and, yes, can be ingested by animals or fish. They aren't recyclable either, just trash. The number of straws used annually is astonishing. You are certainly correct that it is a first step in awareness of the plastic problem, like using reusable shopping bags - still hard to get people to switch! You can buy and carry metal and biodegradable straws if you have to have one.