EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS POST SUCKS.
June 15, 2018 1:53 PM   Subscribe

Why Are Straws So Bad For The Environment? [Bustle] “Plastic straws may be on the way out. From McDonald's locations in the U.K. testing paper straws to proposed European Union legislation that would require straws be made of sustainable materials, to bans and limits on the use of plastic straws in cities like Malibu, Calif., Seattle, and Miami Beach, Fla., more and more companies and areas are cracking down on the use of what has for many years been a universal drinking tool, present at all your favorite restaurants, movie theaters, theme parks, and, well, everywhere else. Most of us know plastic straws are bad for the environment because we're told plastic straws are bad for the environment, but now that anti-straw legislation is pouring in, it's a good time for a refresher on just why plastic straws do so much damage to the Earth.”

• EU proposes ban on straws and other single-use plastics [BBC]
“The proposals are aimed at outlawing many commonplace plastic items including straws, cotton buds, cutlery, balloon sticks and drink stirrers. The governing body also wants almost all plastic bottles to be collected for recycling by 2025. The plan will need to be approved by the 28 member states and the European Parliament before it can be passed. "Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem," EU First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said. "Today's proposals will reduce single-use plastics on our supermarket shelves through a range of measures. "We will ban some of these items and substitute them with cleaner alternatives, so people can still use their favourite products."”
• SeaWorld, Ikea and Royal Caribbean are getting rid of plastic straws and bags [The Washington Post]
“Less than two weeks after a pilot whale died off Thailand with 80 plastic bags in its stomach, three major companies — SeaWorld, Ikea and Royal Caribbean — have vowed to remove plastic straws and bags from their properties. The companies are now linked to a host of businesses, governments and others across the world that have joined an effort to dramatically reduce the 8 million metric tons of plastic that pollute oceans each year — “one garbage truck into the ocean every minute,” according to a 2016 report released by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The corporate activism is evidence that a fledgling movement to ban plastic straws, which sprang from outrage over plastic’s impact on the environment and animals, continues to stir. Movement organizers have recruited Girl Scouts, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, even Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who, on World Environment Day last Tuesday, announced his nation’s effort to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022. “Let us all join together to beat plastic pollution and make this planet a better place to live,” Modi urged.”
• McDonald's Says It's Ditching Plastic Straws In U.K. And Ireland [NPR]
“McDonald's says it will start using paper straws instead of plastic at all its locations across the United Kingdom and Ireland. And it plans to test sustainable alternatives to plastic straws in some restaurants in the U.S. and elsewhere around the globe later this year. "You asked, we listened," the chain announced on Facebook. The company says it will begin transitioning to paper straws at all of its locations in the U.K. and Ireland in September. A petition calling for the chain to stop using plastic straws has drawn nearly a half million signatures. The company reportedly uses about 1.8 million straws a day in the U.K., and it has committed to having 100 percent of its packaging come from "renewable, recycled, or certified" sources by 2025. [...] "Reflecting the broader public debate, our customers told us they wanted to see a move on straws," McDonald's told the BBC. The company will begin phasing out the plastic straws and complete the process next year. By the end of 2019, all U.K. and Ireland locations will have facilities to recycle paper straws, The Guardian reports.”
• Plastic Straws Aren’t the Problem [Bloomberg]
“But this well-intentioned campaign assumes that single-use plastics, such as straws and coffee stirrers, have much to do with ocean pollution. And that assumption is based on some highly dubious data. Activists and news media often claim that Americans use 500 million plastic straws per day, for example, which sounds awful. But the source of this figure turns out to be a survey conducted by a nine-year-old. Similarly, two Australian scientists estimate that there are up to 8.3 billion plastic straws scattered on global coastlines. Yet even if all those straws were suddenly washed into the sea, they'd account for about .03 percent of the 8 million metric tons of plastics estimated to enter the oceans in a given year. In other words, skipping a plastic straw in your next Bahama Mama may feel conscientious, but it won't make a dent in the garbage patch. So what will?”
• New York city to consider banning plastic straws [The Guardian]
“A New York city council member announced on Wednesday his plan to ban plastic straws from the city of 8.5 million people, amid a growing effort across the globe to cut back on plastics. “We depend on plastic, and that is a trend we have to reverse immediately,” said city council member Rafael Espinal, who discussed his proposed ban at a press conference on the southern tip of Manhattan, with the Statue of Liberty in the background. [...] Espinal’s proposed ban follows a failed effort by the city council to add a 5-cent fee to plastic and paper bag use. New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, has said he supports banning plastic bags but has not advanced a plan to enact such a ban, which already exists in California and Hawaii. Espinal spoke at an observation point on the Hudson river nestled between crowds of tourists, including two men who sipped iced coffee using plastic straws. The pair gestured at their straws as Espinal spoke about his concerns, then left just after the council member said he would be introducing a bill to ban plastic straws to the city council that afternoon.”
• Here’s Something to Think About the Next Time You Grab a Plastic Straw [Mother Jones]
“Unfortunately, it must be said that current straw alternatives leave much to be desired. Biodegradable straws made of paper or hay pose a specific problem for disabled people who rely on straws, since paper straws don’t handle hot liquids or soups very well. They’re also more expensive to produce than plastic straws. On the tech front, one startup proposal for a collapsible reusable straw has raised $1.8 million in pledges from 38,000 backers. FinalStraw works like a spring-loaded tube that fits into a carrying case a little larger than a car key fob. While this fix is a bit bigger than pocket sized, it has the advantage of being extremely visible during lunch, a boon to any ostentatious environmentalist. It might be best if straws would just go away—not out-of-sight-out-of-mind, but off the table entirely. But that may be a tall order: Straws are as old as civilization. The first-known straw was discovered in a Sumerian tomb dated 3,000 B.C., a gold and lapis lazuli number that would make a fashionable and sustainable choice for today’s carbon-footprint-minded consumer. Although the first (paper) straw patent was issued in 1888, the straw only truly found its stride in the 1930s, when Joseph B. Friedman invented the bendy straw for improving milkshake circulation.”
• Banning plastic straws is friendly to the earth, but not to people with disabilities [The Takeout]
“In May, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the U.K. will look into banning plastic straws and stirrers, as well as cotton swabs with plastic stems. (Hey PM, the White Sox beat you to the punch.) But a report from iNews makes one thing clear: in at least one way, the straw ban could really suck. Jamie Szymkowiak is the co-founder of One in Five, a Scottish disability rights organization. He told iNews that the potential ban disregards the lives and needs of disabled people, some of whom “find plastic straws an essential tool for independent living.” The problem isn’t simply that people with limited mobility or other impairments use straws in their everyday life. It’s that many of the replacements for cheap, flexible plastic straws can be unsatisfactory, unusable, and even hazardous.”
• Banning Straws Won't Save the Oceans [Pacific Standard]
“There's no reason that accessibility and environmentalism have to be in conflict, but we may have to be a little more creative instead of imposing paternalistic bans. When it comes to straws, we can simply shift from an opt-out to an opt-in model. Instead of providing a straw to everyone, only provide straws—and other forms of disposable plastics—to people who ask. Provide them to everyone who asks, without question, without assessing them for need or disability. Do the same with bags, utensils, cups, and all kinds of single-use plastics. Cut waste, but don't interfere with disabled people's access to liquid. There's nothing wrong with pushing people to be more environmentally conscious. But individual action is not going to save our oceans. Our industrial systems continue to flood waste facilities with plastics, big and small. From there, plastics flow into rivers and streams and are carried into the sea. We need to look at the systems that generate these plastics, and hold producers financially responsible for safe disposal. Let's put our efforts where the money is, rather than shaming disabled consumers who just want an accessible drink of water.”
posted by Fizz (104 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
How is so much plastic getting into the ocean? I thought our trash (mostly) went to landfills.
posted by AFABulous at 2:14 PM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


A huge amount of plastic in the ocean is from synthetic fiber. Plastic particles get smaller, breakdown, get washed away , ultimately ending up in the oceans.
posted by The Whelk at 2:16 PM on June 15, 2018 [9 favorites]


Thinking of paper straws brings back memories of visiting relatives in Pakistan and drinking Mirinda and Pakola bottles with paper straws. Pleasant memories, but yeah they kind of sucked as straws. I'd support a plastic straw ban, or a shift to an opt-in model, but am also hoping that paper straw technology has improved in the last 30 years.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:21 PM on June 15, 2018


Plastic floats so anything that doesn't make it into a landfill gets washed downstream to the ocean. Quite a lot of plastic doesn't quite make it into the trash or escapes the truck etc. Not very long ago it was considered completely acceptable to just toss stuff into the street. Whenever you wash your fleece jacket little bits of plastic go down the sewer through the treatment plant and out to sea.

I was in S Florida for a few weeks and the reflexive handing out of straws with anything remotely drinkable was a new thing for me. My sister insisted on not getting straws and they brought them anyway before apologizing and, I assume, throwing them in the trash.

I don't know what happens in the rest of the world, but that is where most people live.
posted by Pembquist at 2:21 PM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


The 'FinalStraw' mentioned above reminds me a lot of a those wands you get in children's magic sets where it unfolds. Not convinced that portability is what has stopped metal straws being part of people's every-day-carry items though.
posted by ElliotH at 2:26 PM on June 15, 2018


The most important question: "The Plastic Straw–pocalypse Is Coming. What Will It Mean for Boba?"

"In Taiwan, plastic straws will be gone by 2020. The island’s EPA rolled out an aggressive new plan to eradicate all plastic waste. The first step: straws. The plan is to ban them from most fast food by 2019, before eliminating them completely the following year."
[...]
"Taiwan’s ban is nevertheless the clearest sign of the impending plastic straw–pocalypse, and boba vendors all over the world are watching to see how it plays out. The ban all but guarantees that a steady supply of biodegradable-straw innovation will have to hit the market. And that means, interestingly, that this small, straw-dependent segment of the beverage market could end up being environmental pioneers; they simply have no other choice. “It’s not like everyone’s just going to stop selling boba,” says Terry Hung, an owner of Tapio tea bar in Charleston, South Carolina. “Someone’s going to come up with a solution.”
posted by FJT at 2:27 PM on June 15, 2018 [8 favorites]


Banning plastic straws is not a form of discrimination against disabled people: reusable metal straws exist, as do single-use paper straws.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 2:27 PM on June 15, 2018 [12 favorites]


I notice that there's a big push to remove straws, which are an incredibly useful device with a small footprint, but not clamshell plastic packaging. Yet another case of "let's push all the austerity measures as far down the corporate ladder as possible, ideally by making the individual customers entirely responsible for the consequences of corporate marketing decisions."

I've had a couple of friends who didn't use straws; I tried it for a while. It changes how you drink. It was fine - when I was sitting down to eat. Walking around, I needed the lid to make the cup keep its shape, and that meant a straw.

Switching to reusable cups is the long-term solution, but that's a whole extra layer of changes.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:27 PM on June 15, 2018 [45 favorites]


Is this where I can ask about magic erasers and whether they're going to kill everything? They're melamine foam "sponges" that you get wet and rub on dirty surfaces and they abrade the dirt. They really work and are great. But they're melamine foam, and when you rub them, they slowly disintegrate and wash away, down the drain. When I heard the horrornews about microplastics I knew I had to quit my old disco shirts, or at least not get any more and wear the ones I have sparingly so as not to have to wash them. Then it occurred to me: magic erasers. They're little plastic bricks you're rendering into microscopic plastic bits and washing down the drain. I haven't bought any more of them and have stopped using them for the most part.
posted by Don Pepino at 2:31 PM on June 15, 2018 [10 favorites]


Banning plastic straws is not a form of discrimination against disabled people: reusable metal straws exist, as do single-use paper straws.

FTFA:
Metal and bamboo straws are too strong, and can cause injury for people with Parkinson’s. Bio-degradable alternatives often can’t be used above a certain temperature, so aren’t usable with hot drinks, or soup. The leading manufacturer of bio-degradable straws in the UK, Plastico, produces straws that can’t be used with liquids above 40 degrees, while the average Starbucks coffee is served at 70.

Paper straws are often used as an alternative, and Szymkowiak says that “disabled people can take longer to drink and paper straws become soggy which is a choking hazard.” This can be exacerbated for people with learning difficulties who may not notice the deterioration. They are also inflexible, a problem for people with mobility issues.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:33 PM on June 15, 2018 [67 favorites]


I mean reducing all the crazy hamburger eating would do way more for the planet.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:34 PM on June 15, 2018 [15 favorites]


I was too quick to comment, thanks for the correction from TFA zombieflanders. At my work with an ocean conservancy we are promoting the use of reusable straws so I assumed it was more a case of not being aware of the alternatives rather than assuming none exist.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 2:41 PM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


What is it people are drinking that requires straws? Not the people with Parkinson's and similar problems but everybody else? Do people really drink coffee through a straw? I have literally never seen that happen. I am really struggling to see how they are remotely vital unless you have a specific condition which most people don't.

I kind of see the anti straw thing as a positive in getting people to think a bit more about their plastic and waste use. Over here it follows the plastic bag reduction that arose in 2015 but this time it seems to come with a lot more debate over single use plastics. Based on local experience that is going to come with some bullshit over definitions attached but it might mean wider action.
posted by biffa at 2:43 PM on June 15, 2018 [5 favorites]


reusable metal straws exist
And are awesome. They give you the same "your drink feels extra cold and extra refreshing due to the magic of thermal conductivity" effect that you can get from a metal cup, but they're only active over a smaller area and only completely active while you sip, so the result is a perfect "melts freezes in your mouth, not in your hands".
posted by roystgnr at 2:46 PM on June 15, 2018 [6 favorites]


On the accessibility front, there are silicone straws. It's not as if metal and paper and the only options. Also glass (but it's hard for me to imagine glass working for someone where metal doesn't, unless they're allergic to metal).
posted by hoyland at 2:48 PM on June 15, 2018 [6 favorites]


The leading manufacturer of bio-degradable straws in the UK, Plastico, produces straws that can’t be used with liquids above 40 degrees, while the average Starbucks coffee is served at 70.

uh, ok, I guess but you can't drink something that hot with a straw because you'll burn your mouth? like most people sip or slurp coffee at that temperature, mixing in air as they drink it to cool it down. I'm confused by this particular argument.
posted by GuyZero at 2:51 PM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


Do people really drink coffee through a straw?

Not to defend this practice, but simply to answer the question: Cold-brew coffee (served cold and often with ice) is very popular in the US, at least, and many people do drink it with a lid and a straw.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 2:53 PM on June 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


I'm a habitual straw user. Worse, a big part of the appeal is that I tend to chew while I drink, making paper, metal, and hard-plastic reusable straws unpalatable. So I say without hesitation: ban the fuckers.

Or tax them like crazy so that they're an odd luxury. This is not something I can promise I'll give up on my own. I'm not ashamed to admit that. If taxes are good for nicotine, tobacco and gasoline, I say tax the plastic straws! At the very least, make them out of corn plastic. Truly, they still biodegrade slowly in natural environments but WAAAAY faster than conventional plastics. And we find a better use for our corn surplus than fattening things up.
posted by es_de_bah at 2:55 PM on June 15, 2018 [9 favorites]


Every change is going to be hard for some people with legitimate medical or financial hardships. We still need to make these changes and do the best we can to account for accessibility options for those who need. I see this come up every time proposals come up that are hard for the disabled (a group I have been part of) and that's because rightly our communities aren't good at making accommodations. I am all for pushing for making flex plans that accommodate for those hardest hit by changes. I just also think the level of harm the planet and the human race will be facing in the NEAR future if we don't make these kinds of changes across the board, limiting single use plastics as a whole through various forms of regulations and incentives to individuals and businesses, IN ADDITION to a ton of other changes that we should also make it will be bad.


It's frustrating when every proposed changed gets put down because there are many other things that need to be done. EXACTLY. By all mentions mention all the things that need to be done, but let's actually do them!
posted by xarnop at 2:56 PM on June 15, 2018 [20 favorites]




A lot of restaurants I frequent here in the land of imminent straw ban (Seattle) have been using compostable straws for years. Many do a whole hog compostable thing where the plastic-seeming condiment cups and lids and utensils all go in the same compost bin at the end of the meal with your dirtied paper napkins and whatnot. I like it for the simplicity because there was a definite learning curve for me when I moved here to get used to all the different ways of cleaning up after yourself - every establishment seems to be slightly different and the addition of compost was a whole new layer of confusion. When literally everything except a metal soda can and a plastic basket goes in the compost it's much easier to get everybody to be less monstrous in public and leave a clean table for the next patron. They're not paper straws, they're some kind of corn byproduct or something. They have a slight texture to them and can be quickly chewed through but I'm very slow with drinks and have yet to experience one disintegrating on me. They are definitely more prone to holes and cracks but not by much.

It occurred to me to be curious about disabled people who use straws quite often as soon as I heard about the ban. I would love to know if they find these compostable straws to be okay or not. I also wonder if maybe reusable plastic straws could be made of more robust plastic that could be put in the dishwasher with your utensils so a person could carry it around with them alongside their other assistive devices - I feel like there's got to be a middle ground between an heirloom engraved silver straw and a paper straw, you know?
posted by Mizu at 2:58 PM on June 15, 2018 [10 favorites]


Also: as a former Starbucks and DnD emplyee, I can tell you that people DEFINITELY drink hot coffee of all kinds thru a straw. It's a sickness. Like those folks who get an iced DnD coffee and then ask for a styrofoam cup to use as a coozie on their plastic cup. How do you live in New England and then get wussie cold hands carrying your iced coffee in the summah. But I digress.
posted by es_de_bah at 3:00 PM on June 15, 2018 [13 favorites]


I am a cold brew coffee junkie, but I switched to resuable straws yoinks ago, mostly because you can get those terribly gauche glass mason jar thingies with handles and built-in straws in dollar stores now, and because it just never occurred to me to buy plastic straws ever (also, as I have gotten older, my teeth are temp sensitive),
posted by Kitteh at 3:01 PM on June 15, 2018


Oh, and my city is in the process of planning plastic straws too.
posted by Kitteh at 3:01 PM on June 15, 2018


Do people really drink coffee through a straw? I have literally never seen that happen.

Welcome to New York City, my friend. I personally have zero use for drinking hot coffee through a straw but its commonplace. Personally, have been trying to avoid using single use plastc wherever possible as a 2018 goal, so have been dinking my iced coffee out of a reusable sealing tumbler. Its not better than a straw but it isn't that much worse.

I do think there is an obvious middle ground where giving out plastic straws by default is banned but they are, as the last article said, given without question to those who ask for them. Im fairly certain California (or maybe just SF) did this for water in restaurants [like plastic straws I don't think anyone really believed that wasted water in drinking glasses was a major source of water waste, but it was symbolic]. that move was never construedas being discriminatory towards people who need water to get by. . .
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 3:05 PM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


People who drink hot coffee using a straw include those with hand tremors who would otherwise spill the hot liquid while raising it to their lips. And there are women who prefer straws because they don't want to ruin their lipstick. As for me, I hate straws and plastic stirrers for a) the waste; b) the mess they leave on the table when you remove them and c) if you don't, how often they become a stick in the eye.
posted by carmicha at 3:14 PM on June 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


Two articles certainly aren't conclusive, but I wonder whether the whole recycling industry isn't a bit of a sham. Is it the case that, in order to avoid burying it in our landfills, we've been sending our plastics and other materials to China, where it ends up getting dumped into rivers, ending up in the ocean? That doesn't really sound better.

http://www.dw.com/en/almost-all-plastic-in-the-ocean-comes-from-just-10-rivers/a-41581484

"But where to start? Well, in fact, that might be an easier decision to make than one would think. It turns out that about 90 percent of all the plastic that reaches the world's oceans gets flushed through just 10 rivers: The Yangtze, the Indus, Yellow River, Hai River, the Nile, the Ganges, Pearl River, Amur River, the Niger, and the Mekong (in that order).

These rivers have a few key things in common. All of them run through areas where a lot of people live — hundreds of millions of people in some cases. But what's more important is that these areas don't have adequate waste collection or recycling infrastructure. There is also little public awareness that plastic trash is a problem at all, so a lot of garbage, gets thrown into the river and conveniently disappears downstream. "

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/11/world/china-recyclables-ban.html

"China’s ban covers imports of 24 kinds of solid waste, including unsorted paper and the low-grade polyethylene terephthalate used in plastic bottles, as part of a broad cleanup effort and a campaign against “yang laji,” or “foreign garbage.” It also sets new limits on the levels of impurities in other recyclables.

China had been processing at least half of the world’s exports of waste paper, metals and used plastic — 7.3 million tons in 2016, according to recent industry data."
posted by scivola at 3:16 PM on June 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


I love straws. Sad. (I have stainless ones for home. Do not like.)
posted by Stewriffic at 3:20 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Silicone straws are a possible option, but they require thorough cleaning immediately after use, which is not ideal if a person is travelling or has limited hand mobility to use a tiny brush to clean inside.

My mom actually is a silicone straw user and certainly does not clean them immediately after use, nor with a tiny brush. She chucks it in the dishwasher when she gets home.
posted by hoyland at 3:26 PM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


As srange as it may sound, I recycle straws. I like straws and save them from fast food drinks. I put then in the dishwasher and reuse them. No they don't melt or lose their shape. Eventually they wear out and then I dispose of them. A single straw will see use for weeks.
posted by Splunge at 3:27 PM on June 15, 2018 [6 favorites]


Types of reusable straws and risks they pose for a variety of disabled people. #strawban

Text for those who don't want to click through:
1/[ID: Infographic, first block of text reads “Many disabled people need plastic straws to drink, eat, take medications, etc. Here’s how current alternative, reusable options are a harm to us.” Text from table reads “Metal: injury risk, not positionable, costly for consumer, not
2/high-temp safe. Bamboo: injury risk, not positionable, costly for consumer. Glass: injury risk, not positionable, costly for consumer, not high-temp safe. Silicone: not positionable, costly for consumer. Acrylic: injury risk, not positionable, costly for consumer, not high-temp
3/safe. Paper: choking hazard, not positionable, not high-temp safe. Pasta: choking hazard, injury risk, not positionable, not high-temp safe. Single-use: (no risk listed).” Second block of text reads “Pressure to create bio-degradable straw options that are safe for the
4/environment and for all disabled people should fall upon manufacturer, not marginalized disabled consumers. Once we accept the necessity of plastic straws, we can work together on other environmental initiatives that are effective, inclusive and accessible.”] END ID.
It would be nice if this discussion could start from a premise of "believe disabled people when they tell you what works and does not work for them".
posted by Lexica at 3:28 PM on June 15, 2018 [54 favorites]


My mom actually is a silicone straw user and certainly does not clean them immediately after use, nor with a tiny brush. She chucks it in the dishwasher when she gets home.

Not everyone has a dishwasher in their home.
posted by augustimagination at 3:35 PM on June 15, 2018 [19 favorites]


I’ve started carrying two metal ones in my purse as a “the least I can do” thing. Next is getting a tumbler for cold drinks and actually using it - it’s more to carry around. I’m legendary for leaving my reusable bags in my car so it might be an issue for me.
posted by PussKillian at 3:43 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Silicone straws are a possible option, but they require thorough cleaning immediately after use, which is not ideal if a person is travelling or has limited hand mobility to use a tiny brush to clean inside.

Traveling or not, this straw man is too easily defeated.
posted by imelcapitan at 3:55 PM on June 15, 2018 [6 favorites]


What is it people are drinking that requires straws?

Frozen/blended-ice drinks (Slurpees, Fraps, etc.) is what comes to mind. I feel those pretty much require straws to drink. Plus boba tea, unless you want to want until the ice melts but even then, it feels like it defeats the purpose of boba if you have to wait until the end to eat it.
posted by MikeKD at 3:56 PM on June 15, 2018


Let's put our efforts where the money is, rather than shaming disabled consumers who just want an accessible drink of water.”

I had GRS in November. I couldn’t do jack shit with my body for weeks and weeks after the surgery. My Mayo Clinic mug with a straw (the straw! Omg! Yes!) was absolutely amazing. For real the only way I could drink any liquid for a while was by leaning up slightly and tilting my head to the side so I could get the straw in my mouth and suck liquid without it going “down the wrong pipe”. Straws are fucking awesome.

You know what though, I think you could make straws available for folks who need them (children and other folks in life situations who really do need them) and have the rest of us ask for them. If we set social norms in place that are like “hey, disposable straws as a form of convenience is kind of like using the companion restroom because you like to spread out and take your time” then I think we could quit with the ridiculousness of disposable straws.

Also, if you’re not someone who needs a straw you can totally buy stainless steel ones that are reusable and look bad ass. Especially if you drink with them while wearing mirrored Terminator aviators.
posted by nikaspark at 4:04 PM on June 15, 2018 [20 favorites]


I guess my point is I’m tired of (on edit: expecting laws) for stuff. How about we talk about this shit and make social norms because from what I’ve experienced, seen, read and pondered it seems that social norms are in the end more powerful and longer lasting than laws.
posted by nikaspark at 4:09 PM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]




Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't most of these new bans regarding the types of straws that restaurants and coffeeshops give out for free – not banning the actual possession or use of plastic straws? If some people truly need plastic straws for accessibility reasons, they could still order a box online every now and then; I assume some companies would still find it profitable to make them in small quantities. But most other people wouldn't bother buying them, greatly reducing their use.
posted by lisa g at 4:28 PM on June 15, 2018 [8 favorites]


As said upthread, why should we impose the costs (financial and otherwise) on those who are merely asking for their very real concerns to be heard?
posted by zombieflanders at 4:31 PM on June 15, 2018 [16 favorites]


Seriously just put them behind the counter and have people ask for them.
posted by nikaspark at 4:37 PM on June 15, 2018 [8 favorites]


(I would also like to clarify something about norms vs laws, the ADA act was huge and required. The context of this conversation is straws. When it comes to stuff like accessibility to buildings, transportation systems, public and digital infrastructure I very quickly pivot to “we shall require diligent and direct action upon our governments to enact stringent laws that allow everyone access to the world.” In my view, straws are one of those aspects of our world that we can probably solve outside the ADA.)
posted by nikaspark at 4:42 PM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


Ironically, part of accessibility is acknowledging that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Yet somehow single use plastic straws are this unicorn that works well for everyone.
posted by hoyland at 4:44 PM on June 15, 2018 [11 favorites]


It feels very much like the argument is "there's an accessibility concern, so we can't ban single use plastic straws!" So how do you make it work? There doesn't have to be an alternative that works for all people, any more than businesses handing out single use plastic straws works for all people (they're frequently not positionable, for instance).
posted by hoyland at 4:52 PM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


Damn Hoyland that’s a great observation.

What if we all agreed to keep our clothes longer? Based on what I understand, in the grander scheme of things fast fashion is an overwhelmingly larger harm to our ecosystem than straws. (This includes natural and synthetic fibers, neither are less harmful than the other)
posted by nikaspark at 4:54 PM on June 15, 2018


At the very least, make them out of corn plastic. Truly, they still biodegrade slowly in natural environments but WAAAAY faster than conventional plastics. And we find a better use for our corn surplus than fattening things up.

It is an immense shame that corn plastics didn't take off until the last decade or so. It's several birds with one stone.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:06 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Corn plastics have issues - they really. Need to be composted speratley cause most places don’t get hit or wet enough to melt them down - like a complete ban on commercial use of petrol plastic in favor of corn plastics with rigorous composting efforts woukd be a better outcome.
posted by The Whelk at 5:16 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


> I notice that there's a big push to remove straws, which are an incredibly useful device with a small footprint, but not clamshell plastic packaging.

Out where I live, there are people working on that too. Here you can subscribe to a reusable takeout container service that allows you to pick up your order at one restaurant and drop off the empty at another participating restaurant. Although I backed their Kickstarter, I can't tell you how well it works because I haven't actually had the opportunity or need to pick up a takeout order from any of the participating restaurants yet.
posted by ardgedee at 5:22 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm EXTREMELY stoked for the FinalStraw! Traveling with small children is a pain in part because a lot of the time we want to let them drink out of a bottle or grown-up cup but it's such a messy operation I was actually considering just bringing straws of my own on vacation to make it work. A small collapsible reusable straw is going to be a huge hit with my kids. Hope it actually comes in November, ideally I'll have it for Thanksgiving.
posted by potrzebie at 5:29 PM on June 15, 2018


I've looked at reusable metal straws, and decided that not having a dishwasher means it would quickly become a terrifying disease tube.

It does seem that "how can we ban this" is more extreme than is necessary*; restaurants, cafes, and fast-food spots could the straws in back and posting a sign that says "we are trying to reduce consumer waste; straws are available only by request." Don't ask why; don't shame anyone for asking - but let them get used to the idea that most people don't need straws for most drinks.

And start selling $2 reusable branded larger straws (plastic? Or $5 for silicone?) for boba tea and milkshakes.

*Or at least, more extreme than is practical in the short term.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:47 PM on June 15, 2018 [7 favorites]


But the source of this figure turns out to be a survey conducted by a nine-year-old.

what a time to be alive
posted by poffin boffin at 5:50 PM on June 15, 2018 [17 favorites]


Also wrt reusable straws it is unfortunately not inconceivable that they would be (falsely) classified as drug paraphernalia by some trigger happy asshole cop when in the hands of anyone not white. I mean, regular straws as well but they seem less likely to be carried around.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:55 PM on June 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


I grew up with nothing but wax paper straws. They worked fine. And they're still there, although selling for multiples of the plastic ones. But I feel that could change as plastics and non-biodegradables come under more regulation and scrutiny...
posted by jim in austin at 5:56 PM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'd like a double-walled stainless straw; mainly for hand feel, but the insulating properties would be fine, too.
posted by jamjam at 6:29 PM on June 15, 2018


I don't think its enough of a reason to stop a general trend of moving away from plastic straws, but non-disabled folks don't seem to get that while an accommodation might be potentially available, asking for one can put you in a vulnerable position and cost spoons in a significant enough way that the idea of having to do it every time you want to get a soda can be pretty disheartening in a 'yet another thing I have to deal with' and increasing the potential attack surface for people to call attention to you way.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:36 PM on June 15, 2018 [14 favorites]


So, for me, the only time I use straws is when they are given to me without a choice, or the only lid option is one that requires a straw. The revelation that reusable straws are a thing is only matched by the idea that people carry those around to use, I really hate them and would always rather just pour liquid into my mouth, it's faster.
It seems to me that the main reason they are used so heavily in public is for drinks that you need a lid for to keep from spilling while walking around or driving. It seems to me that for most able-bodied people, we already have that invention, it's just a lid with a sip hole, a coffee cup lid. Why isn't that an option, or the default with the same punch hole for straws if you need them? Why can't we look at changing the culture that makes straws the default instead of completely banning them, or at least focusing on heavily reducing use first? Why does my open topped cup of soda come with a straw at Pizza Hut? Because getting a drink someplace, you expect a straw to be there. That isn't really necessary for most people. Why can't there just be a dispenser that most people don't need, and a norm of a hole in the lid?

I think part of the problem is an environmentalist focused approach to policy has a crisis mindset (cause there is one) and sees it as a problem to just be handled, something to just get done, and it is one they can find support for. This, like a lot of really effective activism, overlooks the disabled. Intersectionality slows the process. This is a constant issue in all accessibility discussions, and there is never really a large enough organized mass of people affected by anyone one given thing to have their voices effectively heard, and it's the sort of thing that you don't think about unless it's close. I think constantly about accessibility for wheelchairs and walkers because both my grandfathers had mobility issues and I constantly notice when a space would have been an issue for them, it's just part of looking around for me. I have literally never thought about straws as an issue before, because that hasn't ever been part of my life or the lives of anyone I'm close too. I'm gonna notice and think about it now.

Also, because it's not appreciated until you've been there and wasn't mentioned above, single use everything can be vital in caretaking. It's incredibly difficult, and cleaning is one of the biggest tasks.

On, preview, what Space Coyote said is also a big concern. Making it a think you have to ask for isn't a good option, it should be a thing you can get yourself without having to involve a stranger.
posted by neonrev at 6:47 PM on June 15, 2018 [5 favorites]


I've looked at reusable metal straws, and decided that not having a dishwasher means it would quickly become a terrifying disease tube.

I would have assumed you could just boil them in a pot on a stove. You could use the opportunity to also buy an asparagus pot and feel all fancy and gourmet.

But concurring with everyone else, just having them behind the counter instead of automatically handed out with everything as if they were napkins seems like the way to go.
posted by XMLicious at 6:47 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Bio-degradable alternatives often can’t be used above a certain temperature, so aren’t usable with hot drinks, or soup.

I'm... horrified that people are drinking hot things with straws. I mean, people gotta do what they gotta do. But that seems really uncomfortable. Ow.

I've looked at reusable metal straws, and decided that not having a dishwasher means it would quickly become a terrifying disease tube.

No, no. They make cleany sticks. In fact, I would not trust something like that in the dishwasher. The inside would never get cleaned that way.
posted by greermahoney at 6:50 PM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'm... horrified that people are drinking hot things with straws. I mean, people gotta do what they gotta do. But that seems really uncomfortable. Ow.


Hi, your hand now trembles, here's a coffee. Want a straw or are you horrified by that idea?
posted by Space Coyote at 6:57 PM on June 15, 2018 [13 favorites]


To be less harsh but more forceful: becoming disabled doesn't change your basic likes. A hot cup of tea and a lukewarm cup of tea that won't burn you are not the same thing. One is a life time of comfort and the other is a reminder that your life as you know it is basically over. A straw is one of those little bridges that can keep a little thing that you don't even know is important to you viable.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:04 PM on June 15, 2018 [24 favorites]


I've started having swallowing issues* lately for mysterious reasons and straws help and yeah I get the environment stuff but this kind of thing always ends up being done in a way that screws with consumers, adds cleaning burdens and other ignored labor, and doesn't do shit for the massive industrial waste that is actually killing the environment, and that bugs me

see also: needing to get a new inhaler every few months (and never being 100% sure it will work when I need it) ever since they changed the design to be more enviro-friendly



*if you know me please stop laughing even though this is one of the great ironies of our time
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 7:07 PM on June 15, 2018 [9 favorites]


This, like a lot of really effective activism, overlooks the disabled. Intersectionality slows the process. This is a constant issue in all accessibility discussions, and there is never really a large enough organized mass of people affected by anyone one given thing to have their voices effectively heard, and it's the sort of thing that you don't think about unless it's close.

Quoting myself because I think I did a bad job expressing this. By 'really effective', I don't mean good and well-done, I mean actionable and fast. It can be really, really hard to get anything done, and that makes it easier to gloss over what seem like small problems in that moment, on that project, when it looks like something you can achieve, but it's in the aggregate that it becomes crushing. Thinking about all the effects is hard and slow, and can make you feel bad when you realize that what you were trying to do for right was actually kinda wrong in ways you hadn't thought of. It's a thing that can make people who are honestly trying to do their best for a good purpose do bad things to people they also care about.
posted by neonrev at 7:15 PM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


I think that video that asra linked to up thread was the tipping point behind this global movement. (It's the one where they pull a straw out of a turtle's nose.) The video seemed to be everywhere on my facebook a few months ago.

We've just recently done persuasive speeches in my Year 7 class- lots of kids chose to do 'ban plastic bags' (straws, plastics in general) another kid wanted more recycling. Disturbingly many kids wanted to burn plastic as a solution, so we've got some educating to do yet!
posted by freethefeet at 7:16 PM on June 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I'm someone else with frequent throat/swallowing problems and straws often help me get liquids--hot and cold--without gagging, drooling, or coughing. Sippy cup lids help a bit, too, but straws are the best. (And for the record, metal straws make things like orange juice taste disgusting). I do try to carry my own straw-enabled drinking structure with me to many places, but I also recognize that I've got privilege in being able to buy a range of reusable mugs in my ongoing quest to find one that works best for all situations and being able to clean them easily.

I'm still finding it very hard to believe that straws are the biggest evil that consumers should be shamed about. It seems like a super convenient way for corporations to virtue-signal without actually effecting change. I mean, my hipster cafe has started putting up signs trying to shame people about straws but I kind of feel like they'd be doing a greater environmental good by not keeping their a/c on ARCTIC from May-September and offering fewer meat options for lunch...
posted by TwoStride at 7:32 PM on June 15, 2018 [10 favorites]


What is it people are drinking that requires straws?

My impression was, canned drinks. People didn't want to put their mouths on the tops of cans that had been sitting around, accumulating dust and worse, while awaiting sale. So how about beer? Does anybody drink beer through a straw?
posted by Rash at 7:36 PM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


That said, though: fuck balloons. I don't see the point of decorative balloons and, similarly, my workplace is trying to reduce straws but releases thousands of balloons to celebrate the end of the year and the disconnect between these two acts drives me bonkers.
posted by TwoStride at 7:46 PM on June 15, 2018 [11 favorites]


I feel like if straws should be banned for the general public (which I'm pretty anti straw and think less plastic is... Less plastic) that getting straws classified as durable medical equipment could be a solution to this problem (like... Wound care supplies or walkers or diapers).

Though with Medical care in the US that's a whole other issue.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:52 PM on June 15, 2018


yeah, that's a fast track for straws costing $8 each in the us.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 7:56 PM on June 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


When I was a kid we had glass straws. I think the original ones were hospital equipment. They had a bend in them, and were good for drinking when you were lying down (because of being sick). When I got to take chemistry, I made a few from lab tubing. Obviously, glass straws have drawbacks and would not be good everywhere.

You can clean the inside of straws with a pipe cleaner, but that introduces another disposable thing.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:03 PM on June 15, 2018


Y'all worry too much about germs. I've been using the same plastic straw every day for over three months and I have never even rinsed it out, Granted I drink sugar free drinks and don't wear lipstick, but it been perfectly fine. I have had NO illnesses. (Yeah, I'm a dirty hippie.)

Message to Fizz: I really appreciate that you put the pertinent excepts in the body of your post. That really helps the folks that are blocked by paywalls and region exclusions. Well done!
posted by a humble nudibranch at 8:10 PM on June 15, 2018 [8 favorites]


Carry a travel mug for coffee, soda, water. Don't buy bottled water unless the water in your town is genuinely bad, which it seldom is. Bottled water is usually just tap water in a plastic bottle. Plastic bottle from water account for a lot of waste plastic.
Stop drinking so much sugar - soda pop, tarted-up coffee - it's really bad for you. Now you don't need that straw.
some people have a disability and need to use a straw for cold and hot drinks and soup. Can we specify that they should absolutely get a dispensation here?
Buy less plastic. Remember the re-usable grocery bag that you have 10 of in the car.
Ask the restaurant to find an alternative to styrofoam takeout containers.
Write to McDonalds, Panda Garden, whatever fast food place you frequent; ask them to use less plastic. Ask them to cheerfully use your travel mug, even at the drive-thru.
Find out where your trash goes. My garbage goes to an incinerator, so it's a good idea to keep my trash dry and not throw liquids in the garbage. YMMV.
Businesses use incredible quantities of plastic that you never see. 50 coffee cups - in a plastic sleeve, etc. Very little of that plastic can be recycled because it's the wrong type, and plastic recycling is a unicorn. The market for recyclable plastic is small, the supply is vast.
The less crap you buy, the less crap has to be disposed of. Consider a knowledge/ art/ experience economy instead of a consumer goods economy.
I'm kind of meh on the OMG, straws are the problem deal, but plastics use precious oil to make, oil that we go to war about. Plastic fouls the waters and land. Cheap plastic crap is cheap crap and there's so much of it. Say no to plastic crap. I will not buy any more new fleece,warm, lovely, comfy, warm fleece.
posted by theora55 at 8:22 PM on June 15, 2018 [6 favorites]


Anyone who's even a tiny bit immunocompromised really really can't just carry around an unwashed straw. Can we please listen to the people who are saying that there's a need for some use of plastic straws, especially for people dealing with health/disability issues, and not just assume they haven't thought hard enough about the alternatives?
posted by augustimagination at 8:24 PM on June 15, 2018 [25 favorites]


for the record, metal straws make things like orange juice taste disgusting

Oh it's easy, you just need to get them made of an inert metal like gold or platinum. </kidding>
posted by XMLicious at 8:32 PM on June 15, 2018 [5 favorites]


I think one of the reasons that there's tension over straws and accessibility is because:

Abled understand it's might be a problem for disabled people, but figure that if there can be some accommodation it's fine, and don't see why it's such a big deal over such a small thing, and all these examples are really obscure and can't affect that many people. I do not say this in an accusatory way, because that's a perspective that makes sense if you come at it from the angle of this just being about straws.

For disabled people, it's not just about straws, it's about how over and over and over and over again, society tries to get rid of or shame people for using a device that is considered only needed for convenience, and ignore the fact that for much of the time it's not about convenience, it's something they need to be able to function and enjoy the same things that everyone else can. This is something that we deal with constantly, and it's very tiring to have all these new movements, however well-intentioned, try and take away or shame things that disabled people need. And yes, we can make accommodations, but it's also extremely tiring when everything you ever do has to get a "special" accommodation that you have to ask for or go out of your way in some way, especially when doing so is shamed by society at large. People with invisible disabilities know this very well: using the elevator (god forbid for only one floor!) is now frowned upon because of our movement towards exercise and taking the stairs; if the goals of this movement are achieved, the same thing will happen when disabled people use straws.

This, again, isn't saying that we can't or shouldn't try and stop using straws. It's asking people to please remember disabled people exist, and how they fit into this narrative. Because if we don't, then it's just going to turn into another thing disabled people are shamed over using because no one stops to think that maybe we need it, instead of just doing it out of convenience.
posted by brook horse at 8:45 PM on June 15, 2018 [40 favorites]


Welcome to New York City, my friend.

I... what? I lived in New York for 15 years and never saw anyone drink hot coffee through a straw.
posted by Automocar at 8:50 PM on June 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


Yeah geez guys not everyone is able to make changes easily, if it’s not your lived experience maybe just listen and think instead of continuing to talk over other people?

Accessibility issues are nearly always a second (or lower) tier concern. Almost every time a company or the government or whoever alters something they almost never take these into account from the getgo, and then everything has to be retrofitted after disability activists have kicked up a fuss. The typical cycle is like:
“Our website is way easier to use now and it’s been updated to look modern!”
“Cool but it sucks for people who are color blind, it’s terrible for anyone with dyslexia, and it’s unusable for the blind.”
“Whoopsie we’ll fix that six months to a few years down the track or we’ll just never get around to it.”
posted by supercrayon at 9:00 PM on June 15, 2018 [7 favorites]


Since I started living In the US one thing that has really surprised me is how many plastic bags that the shops give out here. Almost all my shopping gets double bagged unless I ask for it not to be. If I buy meat (already wrapped in plastic!) it gets put in a plastic bag inside the double bagging. Looking at the EPA website the US uses something like a billion bags a day, compared to 175 million of these straws. Since this thread has made so clear that many people do need straws, I'd much rather we culled the plastic bags as priority number 1. The UK 5p plastic bag setup seems to have worked pretty well, there are probably other ways too.

That said, one thing I learned while reading about this is that plastic straws don't seem to belong in with our household plastic recycling. If there are 175 million straws a day maybe stores should take back used ones and recycle them en-mass? (I'm assuming that a pile of plastic straws is easier to recycle than a bag full of plastic coffee cups plus straws)

And theora55 that's a really good comment, I feel like more reminders of that nature might help people (like me!) be more thoughtful on a day to day basis.
posted by ElliotH at 9:25 PM on June 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


It's not that I love disposable plastics, but the straw issue has been presented to me as yet another campaign of bourgeois lifestylism, a misguided attempt to patch 0.1% of the problem, and as usual targeted at individual consumer preferences instead of industrial waste and the root of the problem.
Campaign for abolition of widespread oil-based anything, not plastic straws.
To do otherwise risks putting out one spot fire while a dozen more spawn and the main blaze continues unchecked.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 9:31 PM on June 15, 2018 [13 favorites]


If there are 175 million straws a day maybe stores should take back used ones and recycle them en-mass?

Sending plastic straws to the landfill and burying them may be the best thing you can do. The carbon for the plastic came out of the ground as oil and you are returning that carbon to the ground where it came from. It is carbon neutral -- no net carbon added to the atmosphere (other than the energy used to produce the plastic). Better a landfill than in the ocean.
posted by JackFlash at 9:43 PM on June 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


if you know me please stop laughing even though this is one of the great ironies of our time

horrible witch cackling
posted by poffin boffin at 9:45 PM on June 15, 2018 [4 favorites]


[One deleted. Probably a good idea to read the thread before commenting.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:22 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Next great absurd eBay sales craze - I'm stockpiling now.
posted by blaneyphoto at 10:33 PM on June 15, 2018


I'm totally drinking coffee through a straw tomorrow.
posted by Keith Talent at 11:36 PM on June 15, 2018


Plastic straws entered my consciousness via Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine. Can he be commissioned to document/eulogize their ultimate banishment from human civilization, please?
posted by progosk at 12:00 AM on June 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think this is great - not just because of reduction of waste/pollution etc - but because people as whole are really starting to think about the waste stream.

Criticisms of tokenism, the actual make up of ocean pollution (colossal amounts of plastic fishing trash, fyi) may be correct - however I see this as part of a broader conversation about "rubbish" - what it is, where it comes from, what we think about it etc etc. Interrogating the waste stream that we've often taken for granted is what will make a real difference. Today it's straws and plastic bags, but tomorrow it will be something else, and it will grow. I think it's great.
posted by smoke at 4:12 AM on June 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


WRT plastic bags, numerous cities in the US have banned their use (actually, their being given out at stores, usually stores above a certain size.) More places join the trend every day. The state of Hawaii banned them 3 years ago. It's happening. Of course, you don't have to wait; you can BYOB anywhere.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:01 AM on June 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


It would be nice to not have restaurants automatically give me a straw with every drink, sometimes with every refill. The first thing I do is remove the thing and set it aside, so it's not even a single-use object but a zero-use object.
posted by Foosnark at 5:11 AM on June 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


The other day there were two posts about plastic straws in my Facebook feed, right next to each other.

One friend was outraged that a server gave her a plastic straw with her beverage automatically. Think of the oceans.

Another friend was outraged that a server forgot to give him a straw with his beverage. No customer service these days.

So much outrage. So much of it directed at restaurant staff instead of at power structures.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 5:36 AM on June 16, 2018 [16 favorites]


Plastic bag bans (or better, making them by request only) I consider to be a worthy goal because the impact is commensurate with the cost of the change. Not so much with the straws. Those resources would be far more effectively spent on electrified delivery vehicles, buying solar panels, or anything else that reduces the business' CO2 footprint. Not only is it better economically thanks to growing the alternative energy and BEV markets, but it does more to lessen the impact we are having on sea life, whose food chain is collapsing as we speak not because of plastic bits, but because of ocean acidification and increased temperature destroying the base of the food chain.

To my mind stuff like this is only slightly above greenwashing, and then only because it educates people about excessive waste that escapes our conscious attention thanks to years of acclimation.
posted by wierdo at 5:53 AM on June 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


In warmer months I buy an iced coffee every morning. The straws are at the counter with the milk, napkins, utensils etc. No one is shamed by this setup. I've decided that since I drink my iced coffee sitting at my desk, I don't need to pick up a straw anymore. Simple as. But there's still that plastic cup and lid.

I seriously doubt a ban on plastic straws will ever go through in NYC. They can't even ban plastic bags.

I have no illusions that this is making a huge difference. I have gotten to the point where I resist all plastic bags and straws, but there is an overwhelming amount of unnecessary plastic that runs through my everyday.
posted by maggiemaggie at 6:09 AM on June 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


Maggiegmaggie, can you bring a reusable cup to the shop?
posted by agregoli at 6:50 AM on June 16, 2018


I notice that there's a big push to remove straws, which are an incredibly useful device with a small footprint, but not clamshell plastic packaging.
I think this is because those clamshells can be put in most single-stream recycling bins but straws cannot. This is true in my area and in Minneapolis where they banned styrofoam containers. We also can't put plastic shopping bags in our bins but grocery stores around here have to accept them for recycling.
posted by soelo at 7:22 AM on June 16, 2018


I switched to cloth bags after I started having to ride the bus and walk everywhere. No chance of breakage and more comfortable on the fingers. If you're not going to ban plastic outright, ban doubling them up, and people will switch after a few incidents of losing their groceries all over their driveway.
posted by AFABulous at 8:18 AM on June 16, 2018


if you're not going to ban plastic outright, ban doubling them up, and people will switch after a few incidents of losing their groceries all over their driveway.

This is again going to be a case where the burden falls on baggers rather than on stores. Most products are double-bagged because plastic bags are made so flimsy -- flimsy enough that they're often useless as trash bags (too many holes!) or for reuse for basically anything.

Arguments against bags can also be attacked the same angle as arguments against straws -- what about people who can't afford cloth bags? What about people for whom cloth bags are a burden to carry or for whom they are insufficiently clean? Plastic bags aren't great, but the free alternatives at places like Aldis -- cardboard boxes and other food containers - are far more awkward to carry on the bus. Why are we not targeting xyz instead of something that aids multiple people?

But the problem is, we can say this about everything. We can say this about plastic bags, about boxes, about excessive air conditioning, about meat consumption, about flights, about pretty much anything that you can think of. There are reasons for people to need every feature of modern life, and the people who need those things are often the people who are marginalized in some way or another. Environmental considerations are rarely going to be a win-win situation -- someone will lose.

So I'm sympathetic to the arguments against straws, but I feel like they're also a case where there's no good answer.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 1:19 PM on June 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


Plastic straws are shitty, but there should be a more general push to remove disposable plastics from the market. When you walk out of the store or restaurant, you should know that your environmental mess is minimal in the circumstances and that you've already paid to clean it up. (But this is in terms of trash. It says nothing about the environmental catastrophe of meat and dairy production. That's a different mess you should pay to clean up.)
posted by pracowity at 4:45 PM on June 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Hi, your hand now trembles, here's a coffee. Want a straw or are you horrified by that idea?

My first thought about hot things in straws was they it would melt it, hence the horror. Like when I saw someone put coffee in a compostable cup and a hot melting fiasco ensued. My second thought was that surely there are some chemicals in those straws that are breaking down and are not good to ingest. I apologize that I came across as not thinking there was a valid reason for people doing it. That was never my thought. My thought was “This seems less than ideal and that sucks.”
posted by greermahoney at 6:40 PM on June 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm also one of those folks who is interested in the FinalStraw sort of thing, but I am also worried about cleaning it. Allegedly it comes with a cleaning squeege of sorts, but I'm not sure how well that works in actual reality. Anyone have one and care to share their experiences?

(Not much of a straw user, but I'd like to have options. My county went to a 5 cent plastic bag tax a while ago and I've grown to like my reusable grocery bags, so there is that bonus. Now I just have to hop over to another county to get plastic grocery bags for my trash cans. :-/ )
posted by sperose at 6:53 PM on June 16, 2018


Pollution from plastic drinking straws is not a complicated problem: there are biodegradeable straws that look and feel exactly like plastic straws. They cost more, so offer them to people rather than putting them into all drinks without asking.

The real issue is that plastic straws themselves aren't a big part of the overall problem. Changing industrial fishing practices might fix a big chunk but we'll need to solve thousands of small problems like plastic straws in every aspect of life. That can't be done by highlighting one product at a time, people will stop caring.
posted by BinaryApe at 2:15 AM on June 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


I hate to drink from a straw. I'm glad I have no need to drink from a straw. Yet, I am given a straw all the time. Sometimes even when served an old fashioned in a posh bar, in a fancy heavy glass, which always offends me, slightly or more. I'm drinking whiskey in a fancy glass, why are you giving me a straw? (and yes, I mean straw, not swizzle stick, not thing speared through a fruit garnish.) (also, it always reminds me of that odious person i knew who called straws "sissy sticks")

I am all for straws being an "upon request" thing, like water is in some restaurants now, like the plastic lids are at the coffee cart in my office building. The "reduce" part of the equation--I believe--still matters, right? And one way to reduce demand is to stop facilitating unthinking use by people who have no need of the item and stop forcing use upon people who have no want of the item.

The problems are never ending but not every improvement needs to be substantial--incremental change is still change and it smooths the road for bigger change.
posted by crush at 2:46 PM on June 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


I use both metal and silicone straws. My water bottle (Lifefactory) has a detachable one built into the nozzle. They’re not difficult to clean, though I do use a straw brush (stainless and plastic bristles, lives in the drying rack) and dish soap on them once every day or so. I admit to not washing them every day if all I have drank is water. I don’t think disposable straws should be banned, but I do think if you feel strongly about it you shouldn’t be afraid to buy your own reusable ones. They aren’t as inconvenient as you fear.
posted by domo at 3:36 PM on June 17, 2018


I use my lips to drink, easiest way imo. I hate when you get a drink at a bar and they always hand you a straw that I have to pull out and lay before them, like, look, look at the trash we're involved in now! Really it's the businesses fault, it's on their end pollution must be reduced. I don't make plastic trash, I just get it with everything I buy it seems. I don't want it, stop making it like that, stop making so much. Fast food is insane, everything is separately wrapped. Dump that shit in a bag! I'm eating garbage food, feed it to me in a damn troth, it doesn't matter.
posted by GoblinHoney at 12:50 PM on June 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


> "... biodegradable straws..."

... are made from corn, as I believe was mentioned earlier in the thread. Some people are allergic to corn.
posted by swerve at 8:47 AM on June 19, 2018




...what about people who can't afford cloth bags? What about people for whom cloth bags are a burden to carry or for whom they are insufficiently clean?

Besides the fact that I find these arguments against reusable bags specious*, there are these things called paper bags. Before disposable plastic bags became dominant, generations of people carried their groceries and other purchases home in paper bags. They are slightly less convenient than disposable plastic, but only slightly. Many stores already offer them as an alternative.

* 1. Reusable bags typically cost a buck. You get to use them over and over again. As I mentioned, they're mandated in Hawaii, which has its share of poor people, and they manage.
2. The "burden" of reusable bags is negligible. This is the same dumb argument used against returnable bottles. The weight of the empty returnable bottle or reusable bag is insignificant compared to the weight of the contents. If carrying the empty is a burden, how on Earth does the person cope with the enormous weight of the loaded bag? Further, re-using bags frees customers (and municipalities) from the burden of disposing of plastic bags.
3. If the reusable bag gets dirty, it can be washed. Presumably the people in question have access to laundry facilities.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:17 AM on June 20, 2018


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