The Argument Against Plastic Straw Bans

Emma Duffy, Staff Writer

Cities within the states of California, Washington, New Jersey and Florida have bans against the use of plastic straws in effect; similar legislation is pending in the states of New York and Hawaii.  While it is good that certain city governments are taking action against climate change, these laws may be the least beneficial action possible. Although any percentage of pollution is a large percentage, according to National Geographic plastic straws only make up 0.025 percent of the plastic in the ocean.  That number is small in the grand scheme of things, with other types of plastic making up a much greater percentage. Of course it would be good to get rid of any plastic straws in the ocean, because every piece of plastic matters. But what is the cost of these bans? 

It is easy to say that there are no downfalls to getting rid of this type of plastic in the ocean; however, we can not be so quick to jump to that conclusion.  Because of their design, many people with disabilities are dependent on plastic straws. Some people have impairments that make it so they are unable to drink out of normal cup or even out of a sippy cup, leaving them to rely on plastic straws.   How about they switch to one of the many alternatives to plastic straws? Well, plastic straws are also generally sterile while plastic alternatives are hard to keep clean enough for them to be safe. Also, many of the highly suggested alternatives are also unsafe because of their risk of melting in hot liquids, containing allergens, or even being a choking hazard.  The environmental movement is immensely important and needs to be addressed immediately, but there is no reason this movement has to start with regulations that pose a threat to those with disabilities, to those who rely on these straws to survive.   

There is no doubt that the Earth is dying and it is obvious that action must be taken immediately.  People who are able to do so should be limiting their use of plastic straws (and plastic in general), but simply put it is morally wrong to pass laws that keep those who need plastic straws from accessing them before an adequate alternative is made.  Not to mention the fact that if we really want to see change, it must be more radical. Instead of banning the type of plastic that takes up 0.025 percent of the ocean and affects people’s lives, needed change should be seen as regulation on fishing nets that, according to National Geographic, make up 46% of the plastic in the ocean.  There is no need for the use of plastic fishing nets considering the biodegradable alternative. These biodegradable fishing nets have the problem of being a bit more expensive; however, it is easy to surmise that this problem is nothing in comparison to human lives. It is great to see people promoting the environmental movement and it is amazing that the government is listening, but next time let’s make sure our efforts are more effective and inclusive.  


* photo via Google Images under the Creative Commons license