Single-use items, such as plastic straws, create untold harm to the environment and human health. 1 Plastic may be necessary for some crucial products, like IV bags; however, single-use, disposable objects offer little value in comparison to their burden.
Plastic production is up. Astonishingly more plastic was produced from 2000-2010 than the entire 20th century! 2 We must examine where can we reduce our plastic consumption.
Plastic’s Environmental and Human Health Impact
According to Environmental Health News, there are five solid reasons why we should lessen our use of plastic:
- Chemicals added to plastics are absorbed by human bodies. Some of these compounds have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.
- Plastic debris, laced with chemicals and often ingested by marine animals, can injure or poison wildlife.
- Floating plastic waste, which can survive for thousands of years in water, serves as mini transportation devices for invasive species, disrupting habitats.
- Plastic buried deep in landfills can leach harmful chemicals that spread into groundwater.
- Around 4 percent of world oil production is used as a feedstock to make plastics, and a similar amount is consumed as energy in the process.http://www.ehn.org/plastic-environmental-impact-2501923191.html
Why Ban Plastic Straws?
Many parks, cities, and restaurants already choose to go straw free. According to the National Park Service,
Americans use 500 million drinking straws every day. To understand just how many straws 500 million really is, this would fill over 125 school buses with straws every day. That’s 46,400 school buses every year!
Americans use these disposable utensils at an average rate of 1.6 straws per person per day. Based on national averages, this equates to each person in the U.S. using about 38,000 straws between the ages of 5 and 65. Although straws are relatively small, that amount of waste really adds up! 3
Are plastic straws a genuine needed use of plastic considering the health and environmental impact?
Can you go without a straw next time you eat out?
Do we need laws restricting plastic straw use?
To much criticism, California Assemblyman Ian Calderon introduced AB1884: Solid waste: single-use plastic straws. The text of the bill states:
This bill would prohibit a food facility, as specified, where food may be consumed on the premises from providing single-use plastic straws to consumers unless requested by the consumer, as specified. 4
Earlier versions of the bill included a $1000 fine. Assumedly, it was removed due to political backlash; however, Calderon said the fines were an automatic insertion and not intentionally placed. 5
Majority leader Calderon states:
“We need to create awareness around the issue of one-time use plastic straws and its detrimental effects on our landfills, waterways, and oceans,” stated Majority Leader Calderon. “AB 1884 is not ban on plastic straws. It is a small step towards curbing our reliance on these convenience products, which will hopefully contribute to a change in consumer attitudes and usage.”
Plastic is a material that lasts forever, yet 33 percent of all plastics are used just once and thrown away. Only 9% of all plastics are recycled, but due to their small size and lack of a resin code, no straws are ever recycled. After their one-time use, non-biodegradable plastic straws often end up in our oceans and waterways where they break down into smaller, micro-size pieces that are discarded into our environment. They are oftentimes mistaken as food by marine life. 6
On Twitter, Calderon has emphasized this is not a ban. It also does not apply to “fast-food restaurants, cafes, delis, or to takeout orders”. 7
I’d like to clarify that #AB1884 (Straws Upon Request) is (a) NOT a ban; (b) should it become law, it will NOT make it a crime for servers to provide plastic straws. My intention is simply to raise awareness about the detrimental effects of plastic straws on our environment.
— MajLeaderCalderon (@IanAD57) January 26, 2018
It would seem that the very food services where plastic straws are used the most are exempt from this bill.
Plastic Straw Alternatives
Whether Californians will have to ask for straws or not will later be decided. In the meantime, anyone can take steps to reduce their usage. Make a request, “No straw please,” when ordering. Additionally, you can bring your own reusable straw if you can’t live without it. Here are some alternatives.
- Glass: Glass straws are surprisingly durable. We’ve used Glass Dharma straws for nine years!
- Biodegradable: Biodegradable straws may sound like a better option, and they are compared to plastic straws. They are still a single-use item and therefore not as good as other alternatives. They come in biodegradable plastic or paper.
- Stainless Steel: Stainless steel straws are more durable than glass and typically cheaper.
Too much government oversight or a necessary restriction to protect human health in the environment are issues surrounding AB1884. It’s not a ban, but it is a baby step in the right direction.