Will Banning Plastic Straws Be the Solution to Our Problems?

Plastic+straws

WikiCommons

Plastic straws

Audrey Compiano and Kaia Patel

Plastic straws are omnipresent in today’s world. From fast food restaurants to boba tea shops, they are given to customers who often don’t get the option to decline. The plastic from straws takes hundreds of years to break down because they are not biodegradable. Plastic straws are single use items, and when thousands of people use them daily, large amounts of plastic are ending up in our oceans and harming essential ecosystems.  

In just the U.S., 500 million plastic straws are used every day. Recently, many areas around the world have taken to banning the use of plastic straws. Countries like the UK and states like California have taken measures to eliminate plastic straws. Taiwan is on a plan to completely eliminate all plastic straw use by 2050. Taking these precautionary measures seems like a step in the right direction to becoming a more sustainable world, but it might not be as simple as it seems. 

Some critics believe that banning plastic straws will have unintended consequences. For example, people with disabilities who depend on straws to drink in public will now have to depend on other alternatives. Many people from the disabled community are speaking out against this on social media platforms, expressing that biodegradable and reusable options do not reap the same benefits as single-use plastic options. According to Alice Wong from Eater, biodegradable options are not ideal because they can melt or break when paired with hot drinks and bringing a metal, reusable straw defeats the purpose of having options available for the disabled community. Once again, people with disabilities are not taken into account when new laws and regulations are incorporated into cities.

One thing can be agreed on– plastic straw use should be discouraged. However, instead of banning plastic straw use completely, cities and countries should require restaurants and shops to give the option of declining plastic straws. Many places just give straws to customers who do not have a say in whether they need a straw or not, therefore encouraging frivolous waste. By keeping plastic straws available as an option when asked for, disabled people’s needs can still be met while reducing the amount of single-use plastics for those that do not need them. Educating the public on the danger of plastic straw use, as well as other materials, will encourage consumers to be aware of their ecological footprint.

It should be noted that limiting plastic straw use is not the solution to our impending environmental crisis. The growing population has put a strain on renewable resources, and we need to take preventative measures to slow the overexploitation of these resources and growing climate change from human-produced greenhouse gases. This comes from education of the ecological footprint we all leave and how, as individuals, we can make a difference to reduce it.