Banning straws: a great change for the environment or just a band-aid on the human consciousness?

October 16, 2018

In 2018, the world has finally started to care about our environment and has begun to try and make important changes to our environmental impacts. The banning of straws has been one of the most trending changes that has sparked debate over our water-polluting ways.

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Banning straws: con

In recent months America has become increasingly aware of our effect on the world’s pollution. And in realizing this, we are focusing on the negative impacts of plastic straws. Major companies, like Starbucks, have came up with a ‘solution’ to this problem by creating lids for their drinks that do not require straws. In turn, this has created more plastic waste than the straws they replaced. And yet, even with the lids creating more waste, Starbucks is getting praise over their ‘innovative’ solution to a huge world problem.  

Plastic waste has been affecting our planet for decades, so why are we just now beginning to ‘care’ about it? A video of a turtle having numerous plastic straws dislodged from his airways was released in August of 2015 and has since sparked major interests in this issue. But for some reason, the concern has stopped at the straws.  

Starbucks has been getting a lot of praise for coming up with a ‘innovative solution’ to our plastic problem: a sippy cup type lid that will replace the need for straws within their stores. There is no public record of exactly how much plastic the new lids produce, but they appear to produce more plastic than the straws they are intended to replace. Starbucks claims that all of their stores will have recycling bins within them to properly dispose of the new plastic. However, there has been some questions on whether or not the contents of the bins are actually being recycled.

There has been claims of a group of people has investigated where the companies recycling actually goes. The group put a gps tracker on three separate cups at three separate coffee shops. Starbucks and Tim Hortons being the bigger names. They tracked the cups a short period after the disposal and discovered all of the recycling bins contents had been thrown away into regular trash and ended up  in a landfill.

Starbucks has insisted that the plastic they use in stores for their products are indeed recycled so the supposed ‘recycling’ should carry over to the new plastic lids as well. But if the things that are in store now that suppose to be recycled aren’t actually making it to the recycling plant, what is to make the public think that the same will not happen with the new lids as well?

Falling in suit with combating this  issue, major cities around the U.S. are banning the use of straws within them. In California: Alameda, Carmel, San Luis Obispo, Davis, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Oakland, Richmond, and Berkeley, Washington: Seattle and Edmonds, New Jersey: Monmouth Beach, Florida: Miami Beach and Fort Myers. It even hits close to home in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

But is this really doing any good for our planet? Is this really helping to preserve and protect our oceans?

Straws are the sixth most common garbage to be found littered in our ocean. The actual most common debris found littered is cigarette butts. Cigarettes, when ingested, do not break down. They will fill the animal’s stomach and thus trick their brain that they are full. Eventually, if they ingest too many, they will end up starving themselves because their stomach would be full completely of cigarette butts. So why are we focusing on straws?

I think that America is ‘following the trend’ with this whole straw issue. I feel we are just covering up our country’s horrible environmental policies by slapping a half hearted attempt to be more environmentally conscious. It’s just enough of an effort to distract not only the rest of the world, but our own citizens as well from our horrendous carbon footprint.

On an entirely separate note, what is going to become of handicapped people who depend on the use of straws to be able to eat or drink in public? Straws aren’t always a convenience thing, sometimes for people with physical disabilities, they are a necessity.

In theory, you could use paper straws. They are a great alternative, as long as you don’t mind having it come apart in the first 10 minutes of you using it. Or I suppose you could use reusable straws, but how is that going to work for fast food style restaurant? And not only that, reusable straws are difficult to clean and could pose a potential health problem.

I agree that there needs to be something done to combat this problem that straws cause. We have the technology to create biodegradable plastic, so why not use that as a material for straws. Make that the main medium and set up systems to ensure that they truly are breaking down in a timely manner.

By banning straws you are forcing a decision a on a mass amount of people. Due to the sudden need to find an alternative to plastic straws, major companies are looking for whatever the cheapest loophole they can find.

If given the opportunity, people can be very innovative. By forcing this ‘solution’ you are limiting the amount of time and creativity that could be put towards finding a long term and better solution.  

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    Banning straws: pro

    As of January 1, 2019 a new statewide law will take effect in California and ban plastic straws. It will ban full-service, also known as dine-in, restaurants from giving out straws as a default; people will now have to ask to get a straw. Which not only will decrease the amount of plastic because it isn’t just there for the taking, it also does not exclude disabled people because they can get a straw if they ask.

    Whilst to most, this does not seem like a particularly big deal, it is a huge step in the right direction. This ban has inspired many cities, including Mount Pleasant, and big corporate companies to take the torch and join California in trying to help cut out unnecessary plastic in our everyday lives.

    It would be so easy to get rid of this plastic if everyone from companies and states, to ordinary citizens, would just work together. A decrease in plastic would not only benefit humans, it would also positively impact our oceans.

    We as a society need to take a look at ourselves and deal with what we are doing to our Earth;

    especially after the recent beaching of a whale in Thailand that had about eighty plastic bags in its internal organs, that prohibited it from properly digesting food. This death should have been enough for the world to omit serious change in our environmental policies.

    According to the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston, a minimum of fifty-four percent of all species in the ocean, have been affected by plastic and those statistics are continuing to rise. Here in South Carolina, we love loggerhead sea turtles, it is our state reptile, but what most people don’t realize is that they are an endangered species, and it is because of us. We put so much plastic into their habitats that they cannot distinguish the trash, a life threatening plastic bag, from a tasty jellyfish and it is our job to fix that.

    It can be found on the S.C. Aquarium’s website that only ten percent of 300 million annual tons of plastic is being recycled. So, if plastic can be cut out of the overall amount made per year, hopefully the amount that ends up in our oceans will go down and the amount to be recycled will go up.

    So, why are so many people against this great change? In my opinion it is just because it is change. Some may even say it is radical change and no one wants that right? Even when it could save so many creatures, and possibly preserve future humans welfare.

    As most people know, millions of marine creatures die each year from inhalation of plastic bags, but because of the straw ban, that will be coming to an end. The ban has spurred chain grocery stores to try and phase out their use of plastic bags for taking home groceries.  Kroger even made a statement that they will phase them out by the year 2025. Plastic secretes dangerous chemicals if it is left out on a hot day, such as a bottle in the sun, or even by reusing certain types of plastic that were meant to be disposable.

    As the date of the ban is marching ever closer, we need to take a look inward and see what we love more South Carolina: convenience, or life?

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