Save the turtles: a rare movement that seemed to unite millennials and consumers 35 years of age and younger under the banner that was to ban plastic straws. In 2018, the momentum began rather quickly as studies and research by scientists revealed that plastic straws can be ingested by wildlife (specifically turtles), and cause them to choke and die. A movement to ban plastic straws took off like a rocket.
Store after store and coffee shop after coffee shop began to ban plastic straws from being provided with their beverages. While this is environmentally responsible to a degree, banning plastic straws is not solving the entire issue of physical pollution on our Earth. Unless the entire drink container is reusable or plastic that is not just single-use, there is no way that it will have a legitimate effect on our environmental situation.
Presented in a study by Eco-plient, approximately eight million pieces of plastic waste ends up in the oceans each day. While the movement is not as raucous as it was when it first started, it is staying strong. There are many more stores that have decided to use either no plastic straws or even straws that are made out of recyclable materials like a paper based material. While this may have seemed like a good idea at the time, I don't believe that it is solving the overall issue of plastic pollution at hand.
If stores are going to ban plastic straws why don’t they use containers that are made of recyclable-safe materials? All single use plastics are the real problem here. They're used in a majority of drink containers that you would buy at one of these stores, the same stores that are preaching they have more environmentally friendly habits by banning straws.
While turtles might not be choking on a Starbucks cup, they are still having a damaging effect on the environment especially via pollution. I feel like in this country it is so easy to get behind a specific movement when a cute animal is the face of that movement.
I'm not trying to take away from a lot of movements and organizations like the World Wildlife Foundation saving endangered species. Frankly if using “cuteness” as a way to get people on the proverbial train of saving the environment then I'm all for it. If people really want to have a bigger positive impact on the environment (from a pollution standpoint), the U.S. needs to use containers that are more easily recyclable.
Another side of the coin is how these bans have an effect on those with disabilities. In an article written by Alice Wong via Eater.com, she details how vital plastic straws are to her on a daily basis. With her not being able to lift most things and being confined to a wheelchair, plastic straws are necessary so she is physically able to drink it. A paper straw may seem like an obvious solution but she insists in the article that they are often inconsistent in quality. Some straws will quickly dissolve before she is finished and others hold strong, but overall they are vastly unreliable.
While I have no disability, I do agree that paper straws are unreliable and inconsistent compared to reusable straws or those that are plastic. Fixing the real issue at hand is vastly important and if we really expect to make an impact on the Earth’s health, only banning plastic straws will ultimately fall short in the long run.
How do we as a nation expect to make a meaningful difference on the environment if we do not ban what is more damaging to it? Hopefully within the next decade single use plastics are phased out. If we really want to get more people on board with this idea, then perhaps we should make cute pictures of whales as the poster child. Perhaps that will make people actually care.