The Case(s) Against The Straw Ban


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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24 Responses

  1. Avatar Damon says:

    Won’t someone think of the “insert cause”.

    As always, it’s not a careful review of the facts but an emotional knee jerk reaction. I see it everywhere….

    I was reading a consumer mag that was advocating add’l mandatory safety equipment on trucks and they had a stat of 1K people dying in trucking related accidents. Of course, they did’n’t mention that there were 40K deaths in 17…so they are advocating spending hundreds of millions to alter .025% of the total deaths..not eliminate it, just reduce it.Report

  2. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Why isn’t the answer the same as six-pack rings? Those are now all — well, at least in the US — made of photo-degradable plastic and are a minor hazard relative to things like fishing line.Report

  3. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    Environmental damage, and repair of that damage, is never about One Weird Trick, one silver bullet.

    So it is trivially easy to litigate any environmental issue, whether it is leaded gasoline, disposable plastic bags, phosphates in detergent, or whatever. Any one of these by themselves has virtually no harm or reduction in harm, and all of them existed for very valid reasons and provided powerful benefits to someone somewhere (otherwise they wouldn’t have come into being in the first place).

    But like all the slew of incremental efforts aimed at air pollution, the long term cumulative benefits are staggering. When I was a child Los Angeles had air that was often so unbreathable people were advised to stay indoors. Today, I doubt any child even knows what a “smog alert” is.Report

    • Okay, but that doesn’t address most of the criticisms, which are (a) it will create a hardship on the disabled, and (b) may not actually reduce plastic consumption and could even increase it through the use of more plastic lids.

      I’m not entirely sold on the second one because I’m not sure who is getting a straw without getting the plastic lids anyway, though the question should at least be investigated. The answer to the first and more significant one (also maybe the second, if it’s an issue) may be to simply put our faith in the corporations that they will come up with something or shrug it off and say they will just have to order their own straws online from some other state, though it seems to me like a delay in implementation may be in order to give enough time for the first option.Report

      • Avatar KenB in reply to Will Truman says:

        I’m not sure who is getting a straw without getting the plastic lids anyway

        The way I read it, the current-state measurements are based on the existing lid + straw, not straw alone.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

        I’ve stopped getting lids and strawsReport

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Will Truman says:

        Short answer:
        This doesn’t make any sense, when viewed in isolation.
        It makes sense as part of a large society wide shift in how we do things.

        Answer to the questions:
        1. How many people are we talking about, who simply cannot drink without a straw? Is it possible or a hardship for them to bring their own?

        2. And yes I’m not sure why straws and not lids are being eliminated, but then again, I do know that aside from toddlers, people have drunk beverages for thousands of years without sippy cups.

        Longer meditation:
        Notice how cultural and situational this is; sweet drinks like soda, sugary mixed drinks and cold coffee beverages are customarily served with straws, but alcohol like beer, wine, cocktails and hot coffee are customarily served open.

        It basically boils down to whether we intend to walk around with the drink or consume it in place.
        And since the advent of cheap containers, walking around with a drink and food has become easy to do. By being cheap and easy, it becomes popular.

        Yet the consequences are staggering. This cheap container industry produces a tremendous amount of solid waste that has to go somewhere, and take thousands of years to return to where it came from. Inevitably, some portion of the huge amount ends up where it does damage, like floating in the ocean for animals to eat or choke on.

        It is the central concept of environmentalism- that these tiny seemingly trivial consumer specifications like “I want to eat food and drinks in disposable wrappers”, when multiplied by billions, becomes a huge problem.

        And likewise, the solution will likely not be a variation of satisfying the original specification- “I want to eat food and drinks in disposable wrappers” in some new way, but to change that specification.

        And that is the difficulty we have.
        In the 20th century we became very accustomed to the idea that technology would allow us infinite choices and consequence-free decisions where there would be no pause between desire and its satisfaction.Report

        • Regarding #1, if you talk to disability advocates (such as our own Elizabeth Picciuto), it’s a lot of people and it’s a pretty big deal. If they’ve got to suck it up* they’ve got to suck it up, I’ve guess, but it’s apparently a pretty big ask.

          * – No pun intended, swear to heaven.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Will Truman says:

            Not sure why it has to be a ban, just make it out in. If you want a straw, you have to ask for one.

            Or carry your own.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Make stainless steel straws the hip new accessory. Have one of the Kardashians drink from one ostentatiously. “Oh, it’s a Stainless Steel Straw made by my stainless steel artisan. They’re good for the environment.”

              Then have whomever they were talking to screw up their faces in a paroxysm of envy. Show this person going from store to store to store just trying to find one before discovering, hey, you can buy them on Amazon for just $7.50.

              Then show both of these people mocking someone using a plastic straw and scoring social points against them.

              Get everybody thinking “only poor people still use plastic straws.”Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I’m rather neutral on the straw ban but I can’t help but feel part of the backlash is the same type of backlash that goes against anything that is somewhat environmental. It is all part of the hot take empire that seems designed to basically enforce the old status quo. I’m often at a wonder about what companies and/or people are supposed to do to be environmental if there is always a “case against” environmental action.Report

    • Same as with anti-development (potentially NIMBY) objections: Evaluate the veracity of the claim. There will always be objections, but they will have different degrees of merit.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        I remember a million years ago when I was arguing about the whole “what we can do to mitigate against global warming” thing and I was on team “if we can’t so much as change our lives, how in the heck are we going to change our society?” and I was arguing against someone on team “it’s a moral imperative that we do something to address anthropogenic global climate change!”

        I started talking about little things like “changing the cars that we drive” as something that we, as individuals, could do.

        The person against whom I was arguing started explaining how I was arguing that his girlfriend needed to drive an unsafe car and that driving in Colorado was different from driving in Michigan and you needed to drive cars that were superficially inefficient during the wintertime there and my arguments that we needed to drive little dinky cars was, effectively, putting his girlfriend’s very life in danger.

        All that to say, the whole “I understand that this is a moral imperative on some level but my circumstances are extraordinary” gambit is tiring.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

          (That said, “The Left” is not a monolith. The people who prioritize the environment at the top of their list vs. the people who prioritize access for differently-abled persons probably would be able to reach an accord. But the “HOW DARE YOU!” starting point that works so well against the Team Evil Republican-types doesn’t work against potential allies who are on the left who merely started with different priorities. It’s more likely to result in “How dare I?!? HOW DARE *YOU*!!!” fights.)Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

            And I just witnessed the argument that forcing the differently-abled to request straws stigmatizes them and forces them to humiliate themselves by making them say, effectively, “I’m differently-abled” to the person across the counter. By not automatically providing straws, the establishment is not providing a reasonable accommodation.

            I can imagine a handful of ways that the environmentalist-types will one-up this argument. Give it a few hours.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              And after sleeping on it, I came up with this:

              “Embarrassed to ask for a straw?” (picture of dead fish carcass filled with plastic, picture of dead bird carcass filled with plastic) “Maybe you should be.” (Picture of dead baby turtle carcasses. Picture of dead dolphin carcass.)

              And that’s from someone trying to game out how it will play. I imagine that someone who sees themselves as doing it for real will be able to come up with something sharper or more jagged.Report

        • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Jaybird says:

          For straws, simply price them high enough that they’re a luxury. We can already build them strong enough that they’re reusable.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      By definition, there is always a “case against” any change in the status quo.
      It became the status quo because it delivers benefits to someone, or many someones.Report

    • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Part of the problem, as I see it, is that straws are something like .03% of the plastic waste – so banning/making them less available is at best a symbolic gesture. And a gesture that puts the bulk of the onus on individual citizens, rather than industry or corporations.

      It’s kind of like those who rail against how many people “waste food” but ignore that at least a quarter of the households in this country are single-person households, and some stores (e.g., Aldi) only sell certain perishable foods in bulk. So then the suggestion is made: well, fine. Buy the five pound bag of spinach and blanch and freeze most of it (presuming freezer space) or find a bunch of friends to share it with and honestly? I don’t need a couple more “hobbies”/jobs or more stupid human interaction breaking down mass quantities of vegetables. I need to be able to buy spinach in bulk so I can buy only what I need.

      But that’s more effort for a lot of stores/food distributors, so the effort or onus falls on the consumer.

      Fishing nets are apparently the largest source of waste plastic in the ocean. Water bottles are also bad. I will say one recent success I’ve seen is a lot of places making it easier for people to refill reusable bottles – I’ve seen drinking fountains that had a tap on them so you could do that.Report