Making the Case Against Plastic Straws

By Eric Betz | February 23, 2018 4:42 pm

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Walk the remote shores of the Great Lakes, far outside the city, and you’ll find miles of sandy beaches and quiet tranquility. You’ll also find plastic straws. Pink ones, white ones, clear ones. They’re everywhere.

In fact, visit any coastline around the world and you’re likely to find plastic straws. Conservation groups highlight them as one of the items most frequently collected during beach clean ups.

The reason isn’t hard to grasp. Whether you order an iced coffee or a Coke, chances are it’s going to come with a straw. That number adds up to millions of straws used every day. The Marine Conservation Society says that as many as 8.5 billion straws are used every year in the United Kingdom alone. And Litterati, a map tracking litter, claims straws are the sixth most commonly picked up piece of trash — though the top-tagged item is just generic “plastic”.

The straw’s abundance has also made it a growing target. Like plastic bags before them, advocacy groups are pushing elected officials and drink sellers to ditch straws, as CNN detailed in a report Friday. And from music festivals to museums, a number of venues already have. Xanterra, a concessioner who runs lodges and restaurants within America’s National Parks, offers straws, but asks visitors not to use them. Some American cities moved forward with similar restrictions last year.

And this week, both the United Kingdom and the larger European Union said they’re moving ahead with plans to ban plastic straws, according to the British media outlet Sky News. The outlet said that announcement came after a report that the country’s Parliament has doubled its purchases of straws in recent years.

However, in the United States, even banning plastic bags has proven difficult. Some politically conservative states, like Arizona, have gone so far as to ban cities from enacting plastic bag bans. Though other left-leaning states have already passed their own rules.

And other countries are also leading the way. Last year, Kenya passed the world’s toughest law against plastic bags, offering fines and imprisonment for using plastic bags.

One California state legislator introduced a similarly tough law for plastic straws last month. It proposed restaurants only hand out straws when customers asked for them — violators would be on the hook for $1,000 or potential jail time. That last part drew criticism online, which prompted the representative to suggest the bill could be passed without such extreme consequences.

This wave of bans was enough for oil company BP to announce this week that such single use plastic laws will likely put a dent in their oil production. (Though it still expects growing oil demand overall through the 2030s.) The company says that single use plastics use up about 15 percent of non-combusted oil. Worldwide bans on single-use plastics, like straws, could lower oil demand by some 2 million barrels a day over the next several decades.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts
  • TLongmire

    Want to see what a joke this actually is just order a bottle of water at any drivethru and watch them fumble around to find button then gleefully throw a straw into bag every time. To imprision someone for that is fundamentally dispicable though.

  • Uncle Al

    What is Enviro-whinerism doing about beach whistles and Coney Island whitefish?

  • Erik Bosma

    We don’t need stuff that we don’t need and then throw away.

    • Uncle Al

      We desperately need “stuff that we don’t need and then throw away. That is the point and purpose of advertising, politics, religion, and dating.

      • Alan Kinback

        Animal Kingdom at Disney World has used paper straws for years. They work fine.

  • Marshall Gill

    Aren’t these straw statistics wrong? Wasn’t there another article here on RCScience which indicated that these statistics were nothing of the sort?

  • Uncle Al

    The largest abundance oceanic plastic pollutants by dragged net capture are cigarette filters, laundry polyester fibers, and cleansing beads. Where is Enviro-whiner rage toward things they hold dear?

  • wangweilin

    The primary sources of plastic debris in the ocean are Asia, Africa and India where waste management consist of dropping it on the ground or pitching it in the river. How many people do you personally know that use the ground for waste management? Here again instead of dealing with the known offenders the solution is ‘punish’ everyone in statist fashion.

    • Doug

      Really?? You’re going to blame this on someone else. Look in your own neighbourhood and I bet there is no lack of plastic garbage.

      • wangweilin

        It’s the data. Facts are tough.

        • Doug

          The fact is that North Americans produce more garbage and use more power, water, etc per capita then anyone else on the planet. And we don’t need plastic straws.


    When all those leftist whiners give up disposable diapers and instead use and launder cloth diapers like I did, I will consider giving up my plastic straw.


    This sounds like the Gun Ban Issue. The problem isn’t straws. It’s the handful of irresponsible assholes who litter instead of throwing their trash away in the trash can like the rest of us good people. It’s the Behavior, stupid.

    • KNRover

      Kathy: Right on!!! At age 79, I do a lot of walking to keep the legs from going fallow. I am horrified at the amount of junk (mostly beer cans/bottles, water bottles, and drink cups with STRAWS still in them) along the shoulder of the road. I carry a bag and pick up as much as I can. And I use the identical description you did about the idiots that do this. I’m sure the human population has always had the same percentage of assholes, but with a population of ~7.5 billion, the absolute number is huge. No law is likely to change anything.


        God bless you! I hope you carry one of those long-handled pincher things to protect your hands. I’m 73 and clean up after others, too, as our mamas taught us to do back before there were irresponsible Snowflakes in this quantity.

    • Lorie Franceschi

      It comes from parents that don’t teach right and wrong to their kids. Don’t know where it came from as I taught my kids right from wrong, but have to get after the grandkids about doing the right thing. I believe that in the leftist colleges something falls apart about right and wrong and becomes the what do I get out of it happens.
      I still think I did something wrong, but still have not figured it out.


        More than the leftists colleges. I am a retired public school teacher, and I saw the schools become leftist over the decades with more focus on My Rights and Not Getting My Feelings Hurt than on Responsibility. They created a generation of narcissistic socialists, which sounds like a contradiction in terms but isn’t. Do you remember anybody taking a Selfie when we were growing up?

  • Ron Jones

    You mean go back to paper straws. They were around before plastic and some restaurants provide only paper straws.

  • Doug

    To change people’s behaviour they need to be hit in the pocket book. Maybe a tax needs to be added to all one-time use items and make it high enough to make a difference. If a pop with a straw was another 50 cents would people stop getting straws? Also, if plastic straws costed the retailer too much they would start using more environmentally friend alternatives.
    The true cost of these one-time use items should include their full life cycle and impact on the environment. This should be true for much of the junk that we purchase.


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