Banning Plastic Straws is a Distraction from the Real Issues
By now, most of us have heard that the use of plastics is a big issue for the environment, particularly plastic straws. Partially filled by the success of BBC’s Blue Planet series, people are more aware than ever before about the dangers to wildlife caused by plastic pollution, as well as the impact it can have on human health. Single-use plastics are now high on the agenda – with a great deal of people trying to do their bit to reduce usage. In reality, all of this chaos just provides a convenient distraction from the more serious environmental issues that plague our world.
Yes, we know that plastic straws can entangle birds, fish, and marine life, which can starve after filling their stomachs with plastics. However, what good does taking a stand against plastic straws while mindlessly carrying a plastic Starbucks cup do?
By putting an emphasis on removing plastic straws from our daily lives, we ignore the larger root of the issue. Sure, making small changes can be a helpful issue to address, but it will not solve oceanic plastic pollution, carbon emissions, or larger corporations taking control of the fossil fuel industry. In fact, alternative plastic products and straws can often have different environmental problems. Plus, the benefits of these small-scale consumer driven changes are often minor.
In reality, the bigger issue at hand is governmentally-scaled transitions and systemic change. There are better, bigger policy proposals out there, and we desperately need them put into practice: bans on fishing, hefty taxes on plastic, placing a tax on carbon, etc. These legislative changes attack the problem at the core: corporations taking advantage of the environment. Whether you use a plastic straw or not, it will not change the outcome of allowing a monopoly in the oil industry.
The United States government needs to participate in the project of saving the planet; the most meaningful change any consumer can make is through voting. Exercise your right to vote – if you are eligible – and take a stand against a government that does not value the future of the planet. This is not a matter of small consumeristic change, it is a matter of systematic change on a far greater scale.
We Must Ban Plastic Straws
As of July 1st, 2019, Seattle, Washington is the first United States city to ban the use of plastic straws for vendors in the city as well as plastic stir utensils. The New York City Counsel also recently introduced legislation to ban plastic straws by 2020. Most recently, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed a proposal to outlaw plastic straws and stirrers in the city.
However, local governments are not the only people hopping on board; corporations like Starbucks have been moving away from plastic straws. In addition to switching to compostable straws, it will be releasing a new strawless drink lid.
These efforts are wonderful, and banning plastic straws is exactly what we need to do. The main reason for eliminating plastic straws is the negative impact on our oceans and marine wildlife. Plastic in the ocean is a large problem – look no further than trash island or the viral video of a turtle suffering as a result of ocean pollution. On top of that, straws cannot be recycled, as they cannot make it through the mechanical recycling sorter as they are far too small and lightweight. They often contaminate recycling loads or get disposed of as garbage.
In case you didn’t know: we use a ton of straws! It is estimated that the average person uses 1.6 straws per day. This means that if 25,000 people stopped using straws, we would eliminate 5 million straws and prevent them from entering the oceans and harming wildlife. Knowing that mot straws – recycled or not – are likely to end up in our oceans, individuals cutting back on their use can make a difference.
This is just the beginning! While straws are a small place to start, movements like the plastic straw ban bring attention to the conversations about waste management and pollution. This movement can help people become more aware of the impact that everyday plastic products have on the sustainability of the planet. That can, in turn, hopefully help us make progress in reducing the amount of plastic waste in the world.
By Maggie Di Sanza