NEWSSTAND

Opinion: The Straw That Is Breaking My Back

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by Mark Armstrong
Editor’s Note: This is an opinion piece written by one of our many petition creators on StandUnited.org.

Leave it to the masses to embrace stupidity in its purest form. Only once in a while will something so ridiculous gain traction that the world’s largest corporations will buy into such hysteria along with the masses. The hysteria du jour? Straws.

Starbucks, Disney, restaurants, cities are all banning plastic drinking straws mainly because a then 9-year-old, Milo Cress, called and asked some plastic companies how many straws they THINK people use in a day. The world took the theoretical research conducted by a 9-year-old and ran with it. 9, not even 10, and he’s creating movements with popularity researchers at MIT would die for. Cue the pandemonium.

The Hysteria Begins

As a result, cities started banning them, companies starting banning them, some even handing out jail time and fines to employees that GIVE THEM TO CUSTOMERS. Pair this bogus research with a viral video of a sea turtle getting one removed from its nose and you have a recipe for some good old-fashioned grassroots uprising against the notorious, hateful, evil plastic drinking straw.

I could go on about how people with disabilities rely on plastic straws for their ability rebound from being crushed, or I could tell you that it takes more energy to make paper straws, or even that metal straws are dangerous because of conductive properties, but clearly there is no room for real data or facts.

The truth is people who study waste management and pollution will be the first to tell you that plastic straws are not the problem. Over 99% of the trash in oceans comes from other countries. The 1% that the US is responsible for? The overwhelming majority of it is fishing trash. Abandoned nets, lines, etc. The rest is too diverse to qualify as anything specific.

So What Can We Do?

If anybody really cares about plastic waste, here’s a list of things to think about:

*Next party you may be at, don’t use that red cup. Or that plastic fork. Or that plastic drink stirrer. Or that plastic spoon. And don’t even think about sitting in that plastic Adirondack chair.

*Next time you are at Starbucks and you want a Frappuccino, think about how that lid on your drink was tripled in volume of plastic to accommodate your paper straw that is 4 minutes away from being soggy.

*Next time you go to a restaurant that serves anything plastic, ask them who they use for waste removal. Follow up with that waste company and ask about their processes, process auditing, quality assurance, recycling practices, and statements on ocean pollution.

*Next time you eat seafood, ask where it was sourced from. How it was caught, harvested, raised, and how much they trust the actual fishermen to not pollute by leaving nets and other equipment behind.

If we are serious about plastic, speak to the automotive industries. Your car is full of plastics. Talk to toy manufacturers, make sure they are operating to a standard you are satisfied with. Talk to food companies. How many products are bottled or jarred in plastic containers? What did you bring your leftovers in today?

My final thoughts: Calm down. Straws aren’t the problem. China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand are responsible for the oceanic pollution problem. Not our country, not our states, not our cities, not our restaurants, and not even our waste removal companies. Plastic isn’t evil, littering is.

This whole trend…sucks. I had to.

If you enjoyed this opinion piece, why don’t you start a petition of your own? You could be featured on NewsStand, too!

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