The straw ban has a positive effect on the environment. The ban does not discount specific issues brought up by those against it. The straw ban needs to be thought through and discussed, but not dismissed.
The main issue with straws is that they take 200 years to decompose. Because these straws don’t decompose for a long time, they often end up in the ocean. Many sea creatures end up eating them and they can get stuck in their digestive systems or in their windpipes, which can lead to choking.
It’s estimated that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
The impact of straws on the ocean has inspired many companies to ban them. Instead, companies have created lids that don’t require a straw or have replaced disposable straws with reusable ones. It’s good that corporations like Starbucks are excited and willing to make a change that has such a significant influence on the environment.
Every plan has its faults
In this case, it’s that people of differing abilities may rely on plastic straws to drink. Taking them away or replacing them hurts accessibility. Reusable straws are often not a solution for those with certain neuromuscular disabilities, and some cases of Down syndrome.
The total ban of single-use straws would negatively affect people who need these on a daily basis.
But there are options for making these products readily available and accessible without giving every person that walks into a restaurant, coffee shop or bar a single-use plastic straw. It makes a difference if Starbucks only hands out several hundred plastic straws, rather than several million. This could be achieved if Starbucks and other companies kept straws around for those who need them, rather than giving one to everyone. The option of getting restaurants to carry only a marginal amount of traditional plastic straws to hand out to those who request them would make a difference.
There’s an opinion out there that changing straws and having less of the plastic straws will make no difference and environmentalists are wasting their time on a lost cause. To say that getting rid of (or minimizing) the use and distribution of non-reusable straws that don’t decompose will save the world and reverse climate change is unrealistic of course.
But will it do something?
Because straws are just the beginning. It’s true that they do not make up the majority of plastic waste. The point is that they are plastic waste. We all need to be more environmentally conscious about what we use and where it ends up. Society can’t just up and get rid of plastic waste overnight, so we need to start somewhere. This is it.
Canadians alone use 57 million plastic straws every day. They’re either in the ocean or part of the 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste produced worldwide–only nine per cent of which will be recycled properly. Anything we can do as individuals to pressure corporations into limiting their straw and plastic use will make a difference.
Should we get rid of straws to the extent of not having any available to those who need them? Of course not–but that does not mean we do nothing either. I promise your iced coffee will taste just as good without a straw, and if it doesn’t? There are plenty of reusable options for those who have the option of using them.