The Problem With Plastic Straw Bans

Okay, so plastic straw bans are suddenly all the rage and quite a few people are lashing out in favor and against. But here’s the problem I see with this…

The plastic straw ban is really just political ass-kissing to shut my fellow liberals up. It doesn’t do a damn thing to stop the problem because a lot of my fellow liberals think these tiny battles are actually meaningful.

Hell, the plastic sippy cup style lids that are being used to replace straws (like at Starbuck’s) use more plastic to make than the regular plastic lids and straws they previously used. The problem isn’t straws: the symptom is plastic and the problem is human behavior.

When we realized lead was killing children we banned lead paint. When we realized asbestos was causing cancer we banned it. We can’t just ban all plastics as kneejerk emotional bullshit legislative action. We need to look at the entire problem and come up with solutions based on science and reason and critical thinking. Ban plastic where it can be banned without affecting people in negative ways. Keep it where it needs be to be kept, but work on solutions to removing plastic even where it’s currently still needed. For example, we clearly need plastic IV bags in hospitals. However, we used to use glass bottles for IVs. Can we go back to glass IV bottles? Is there the will to do that? Is the will there to do that for so many other examples as well?

There are a lot of replacements to straws already in place, such as metal straws being used in homes (we use them in our house) and in places with permanent residents (retirement homes, etc). A few restaurants have started using pasta straws as a replacement. Yes, pasta. And some of us are old enough to remember when straws were made of paper (granted, they weren’t the best, but I’m sure some human ingenuity could improve upon those old-fashioned paper straws).

Why can’t we go back to paper cups at fast food places and coffee shops? Why is my iced chai latte in a plastic cup instead of a paper cup? Why not offer me the option of bringing in my own cup and charging me by the ounce? Why not bring paper bags back to grocery stores? We don’t need plastic bags at grocery stores: we just want them.

People whined about killing trees for paper. We see all these companies bragging about saving paper (a public relations move, not an actual environmental saving move), but that’s non-scientific. Ninety-one percent of all paper products come from self-sustaining tree farms and “second growth” forests (forests that were cut down for other uses before and are being “recycled” instead of cutting down old growth. ONly 9% of paper comes from tearing down old growth forests and that can easily be stopped. Killing off paper is silly, especially since it’s biodegradable (yes, I fully acknowledge the paper-making process has its own issues that need to be resolved: especially the waste it makes). We replaced paper towels with air blowers in bathrooms, but those are electric and use more electricity from coal-based electricity production. But everyone was happy we got rid of paper in bathrooms. It’s kneejerk nonsense that’s not scientifically or rationally based.

Photo via USA Today

The reality is that if every bit of plastic ended up in properly maintained landfills there would be zero issue with plastic (especially landfills that reclaim methane buildup for energy usage). But the problem is people not disposing of them properly so they end up in the waterways and oceans killing animals: like that whale that died with almost 80 plastic bags in its stomach: literally died from starvation because there was no room left in its stomach for actual food. Or the video of the turtle with the straw stuck in its nose that caused so much outrage over straws while a gazillion plastic bags and plastic water bottles (a much bigger problem than straws) and six-pack beer rings are floating around the oceans killing animals as well.

There are solutions for this entire thing and one of the biggest ones is to get rid of our disposable attitudes toward everything from electronics to plates and cups to utensils, etc. We need to start repairing things that break instead of just tossing out that monitor or TV or phone and actually get it repaired instead of putting it in the garbage. We need to stop buying plastic and Styrofoam plates and cups and utensils.

Austin, Texas banned plastic bags for good reason a long time ago and recently the State of Texas overturned plastic bang bans via the Texas Supreme Court. It now won’t be long before plastic bags liter Austin’s streets again, getting into the sewers, finding their ways to the streams and rivers and out into the Gulf of Mexico. The reality is humans are the real problem: plastic in the waterways and oceans is just a symptom of human stupidity.

So because humans are too stupid or lazy or just don’t care to properly dispose of their waste so that it ends up in properly managed landfills, we now have to take drastic kneejerk reaction legislative measures. Humans are the problem: plastic in the waterways and littering our cities is just a symptom of that problem.

So how do we fix the real problem of human behavior? We can’t (at least not in terms of decades – just look at how long it took for the anti-smoking behavior modification to make a dent and people still smoke cigarettes). We can’t fix human behavior like that. So we have to accommodate it and come up with viable solutions and alternatives so that if human morons throw their trash into the street it doesn’t kill animals in the ocean or kill off coral reefs. We need a scientific and fact-based approach to this and kneejerk bans of straws are neither scientific nor fact-based and just a band-aid placed on a sucking chest wound of humanity.

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