Plastic straws are everywhere we look. We use them to drink beverages at home and we get them at almost every restaurant. Recently, however, plastic straws have been the subject of many plastic bans in an attempt to help the environment. 

But should plastic straws really be banned? And will a plastic straw ban actually be effective when it comes to saving our oceans and environment?

In this article, I’ll go over both the pros and cons of a plastic straw ban. I’ll also go over whether or not plastic straw bans will actually help the environment, and explain everything else you’ll need to know. 

Let’s get started:

Why Should Plastic Straws Be Banned? (Pros of the Ban)

The single biggest reason why people want to ban plastic straws is because of their negative effects on the environment. 

Plastic, in general, is one of the biggest pollutants in the world. Most of it is either dumped in landfills or ends up in the ocean. Once in the ocean, plastic pollution is extremely dangerous to marine life, and plastic straws are no exception. 

Plastic straws (like most plastic) are non-biodegradable, meaning that it can’t be naturally broken down by decomposers. They also aren’t accepted by recycling facilities because they can jam recycling machinery (due to their small size). Thus, plastic straws can’t be recycled. 

To make matters worse, if plastic straws get into the ocean, they can be mistaken for food by marine animals. When animals ingest plastic, it clogs up their digestive systems, which can easily choke or kill animals like birds or sea turtles.

In fact, the global backlash against plastic straws likely started after researchers off the coast of Costa Rica shared a viral video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck up its nose.

According to the researchers, the turtle likely mistook the straw for food and swallowed it. Then, the straw got stuck in the turtle’s nose after she/he tried to cough the straw back out. 

You probably already saw the video, but if you didn’t, you can watch it below (WARNING: Graphic Content):

Supporters of plastic straw bans claim that the ban will help reduce our use of single-use plastics. As a result, the ban will reduce the number of plastic straws polluting the ocean.

According to market research firms, Americans use about 350 million plastic straws every single day. Plastic straws are also the 6th most common trash item found during ocean cleanups. A plastic straw ban would serve to reduce the number of plastic straws entering the ocean. 

Overall, the main reason for a plastic straw ban is to help the environment by preventing plastic straws pollution. 

If you’d like to learn more about how plastic straws negatively impact the environment, you can check out this article I wrote about the environmental impact of plastic straws.

Now, let’s get into the negatives of a plastic straw ban:

Why Plastic Straws Shouldn’t be Banned (Cons of the Ban):

While banning plastic straws might help the environment in some aspects (we’ll talk about this later), there are also many reasons against (or cons) of a plastic straw ban. 

Here are 3 reasons why plastic straws should not be banned, explained in a simple and easy-to-understand manner:

1. Some Disabled People Require Plastic Straws to Drink

For some people with disabilities, straws are the only way they can drink. An outright ban on plastic straws would create an accessibility problem for disabled people while dining in public. 

For example, some disabled people may not be able to properly hold or pick up a cup, so they need to use straws to drink properly

Person sipping a drink using a straw

Alternatives to plastic straws, such as paper, may not always be effective for disabled people: paper can be bitten through or broken easily. As for reusable straws, they aren’t flexible as plastic ones and can be easily forgotten at home. This leaves few other alternatives other than plastic straws. 

For many in the disabled community, the availability of plastic straws is essential for their well-being and survival. A complete ban on plastic straws would harm disabled people, which definitely isn’t the goal of such a ban.

So, what could be a better solution?

Well, a possible alternative solution could be to encourage businesses to only give out plastic straws on request. This way, disabled people can continue to be served, while also reducing the number of plastic straws that we use. 

2. A Ban Could Harm Local Businesses

If plastic straws are completely banned, local small businesses like boba tea shops will have to look for pricier alternatives. This could negatively reflect on their income.

Bubble Tea
Bubble Tea / Photo courtesy of Oqmilteashop / CC BY-SA 3.0

Paper straws cost on average around 2.5 cents ($0.025), whereas plastic straws cost only half a cent ($0.005). While an extra two cents may not seem like a lot, it could make a difference for some businesses that depend on plastic straws. 

3. A Plastic Straw Ban Might Not Really Help the Environment

Some opposers of the plastic straw ban say that a ban is unlikely to actually help the environment, as plastic straws do not make up a large percentage of plastic in the ocean. 

In fact, plastic straws only make up around 0.03 percent of total plastic waste by mass. By comparison, an estimated 46 percent of all pollution in the ocean is made up of lost or abandoned fishing gear (Vox). 

Therefore, a plastic straw ban by itself is unlikely to be very effective in actually helping the environment, although it could act as a gateway into the reduction of other single-use plastics. I’ll talk about this more in the next section:

Will a Plastic Straw Ban Actually Help the Environment?

By itself, a plastic straw ban is unlikely to have a large impact on the environment. Without proper education, few people would know the purpose of the ban, and they would continue using other single-use plastics which could be even worse for the environment. 

However, if a plastic straw ban is properly implemented with education about single-use plastics, then the ban could encourage the public to reduce their usage of other single-use plastics as well. 

Increased awareness about the negative effects of single-use plastics would help the environment a lot more than just a simple plastic straw ban.

Single-use plastic waste

Additionally, a plastic straw ban could also act as a gateway into other single-use plastic bans for items like plastic bottles and plastic bags, which are worse for the environment than plastic straws. 

Overall, the goal of a plastic straw ban should be to increase public awareness for single-use plastics and their nasty effects on the environment. Only then would a plastic straw ban be able to actually help preserve the environment. 

Conclusion: Should Plastic Straws Be Banned?

There are definitely differing opinions on whether or not plastic straws should be banned. In fact, I just listed many reasons and points in this article that support both sides of the argument.

You are free to have your own personal opinion on whether or not we should ban plastic straws. However, as an environmental enthusiast, here’s what I think about this ban. 

In my opinion, plastic straws should not be banned outright, because many disabled people require plastic straws to drink. We shouldn’t ban plastic straws if it creates an accessibility issue.

However, I do believe that we should limit our use of plastic straws by asking businesses to only give out straws on request. We should also try to give up plastic straws if we are capable of doing so.

It’s also important to look at the bigger picture regarding plastic bans. 

The bottom line of any plastic ban is that we must use less single-use plastics overall. A plastic straw ban could be a good step in the right direction, but we must use less single-use products overall to actually help the environment.

Getting rid of a single plastic straw may not have a very large effect on the environment. But, getting rid of all single-use plastics definitely will. 

Please share this message with your friends so that together, we can tackle our global plastic problem. You can share this article on social media by using the share buttons below. 

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