Are Plastic Straws Distracting from a Bigger Problem?

By edhat staff

An edhat subscriber sent in a recent opinion article from Bloomberg News where the author states plastic straw bans might hinder greater efforts to reduce plastic use and pollution.

“… 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,” the author writes.

According to a recent survey by “Ocean Cleanup” scientists they determined that at least 46 percent of the plastic by weight in a large ocean garbage patch was due to fishing nets.

Last summer the City of Santa Barbara issued a firm ban on plastic straws and other single use plastics that gained national attention for the proposed punishment of jail time. The ordinance was sent back for further review after going viral.

On October 9th, the Santa Barbara City Council voted 6-1 to adopt an ordinance prohibiting the distribution and sale of plastic straws and stirrers as well as limitations to the distribution of plastic cutlery which can only be provided “upon request”. 

This ordinance is set to go into effect on July 1 of this year. The full details can be found here including exemptions due to teh Americans with Disabilities Act.


Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

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  1. isn’t that just classic when a good reason can’t be given…”we have to start somewhere”. Makes the whole “cause” lack credibility. Ok with confetti eggs but those damn straws people throw during the parades – ban them!!

  2. The whole “we’ve got to start somewhere” argument is getting old. If there’s no proof that plastic straws are as evil and polluting as some think, then there’s no reason to threaten jail time over them.

  3. Amaaaaazing. Absolutely astounding how people will cling onto their gawd-given right to pollute not only the planet, but themselves. Why not get rid of food-use plastics whenever and wherever we can? Food-use plastics not only end up in the ocean, the plastics leach into our soil and have even been found to be cancer-causing. Why do you think you’re seeing more and labels that read “BPA-free”? That’s because people are becoming more and more aware that plastics break down and can cause health problems. And note: ——–“Just because a plastic food container is phthalate and BPA-free doesn’t mean it’s entirely safe. Even very hard plastics like the ones with BPA in them break down over time, which means they can potentially release trace amounts of whatever chemicals they are made of into the food. This is more likely to happen when the plastic has been heated or when it’s old and has been subjected to repeated use or washings.” (———– If you don’t care about our oceans, then at least have a care what you’re ingesting.

  4. I think we need to get rid of plastic politicians. They never seem to “break down” over time. Isn’t it ironic that the farmers of the sea are indirectly contributing the most to the plastic contamination of it?

  5. JUN 26, 2019 03:35 PM: Meet me at the beach at low tide. Any local beach. I bet you dollars to donuts you and I can find at least 15 pieces of plastic on the sand, along with bits of styrofoam. And I dare you to bet me $50 that we won’t find at least one plastic straw, large or small. I’ll take it easy on you. We’ll only do a three-mile slow walk.

  6. I have never liked using straws and prefer to drink without them. Although I don’t care a lot about straws, I am a little reluctant to start a trend of outlawing plastic products. My concern is the more plastic products we eliminate the more we will increase the cost of living. Sure, we are talking pennies per straw, but what will we ban next? It all adds up. Replacing disposable plastic products with more expensive alternatives will drive up the costs of basic goods and services. Sure, those of us who are financially fortunate and don’t pay attention to what our grocery bills add up to, or what a tank of gas or an electric bill comes out to have the privilege of dismissing these extra expenses as insignificant. Unfortunately, like so many environmental policies, outlawing plastic products will squeeze those who can least afford it.
    I would also like to pose the hypothetical question, if the entire population of north america magically disappeared tomorrow, what effect would that have on plastic pollution in the ocean? Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t think it would result in a significant reduction. I don’t mean to excuse poor environmental practices, but we could literally kill ourselves to try to stop plastic pollution and it would have little effect. I think it is important to put things in perspective and contemplate how we can accomplish the most good for the environment and for our people.
    Which countries contribute the most to plastic pollution in the ocean? How could we help other countries reduce their plastic pollution? What changes are necessary, and what countries need to make them, in order to solve the ocean plastic problem?
    Finally, I want to say that I truly despise litter and particularly plastic litter. I think we could do much more to work towards eliminating it, and I have a suggestion for a starting point. One glaring problem that has a major impact on us locally is all the drug addict encampments around our community. These encampments are effectively large plastic trash piles, and many of them are located in or near our waterways. This plastic trash washes out onto our beaches when it rains. I think Santa Barbara could solve this problem, and doing so would result in a major reduction in our local plastic pollution. Does anyone have any ideas on how we could tackle this problem? What could we do to clean up Santa Barbara?

  7. This is a great idea but a myth. Go down yourself to the collection facility at Marborg. Things are gathered in a truck where most gets wet and ruined because most people just put trash into the blue can. What remains is hand sorted and not all of it is recycled/recyclable. That which is left for recycle gets shipped to Long Beach and then put on container ships and sent out of country. At this point, it’s already too expensive. What’s left and actually makes it to poverty stricken Chinese people is sorted through, some of which is reused. Most of the rest DOES NOT find it’s way back into packaging. It’s TRASH. And most of that trash is dropped off ships near the coast or river inlets and finds its way STRAIGHT INTO THE OCEAN. There are NO CONTROLS put on processing other peoples trash. Industry has ZERO incentive to spend more money to use recycled materials. 20 years ago? Packaging would say “20% recycled materials”? Those days are long gone. This is reality.

  8. A rather prolix post to just say it’s someone else’s problem, not ours, and they should do as we say, not as we do, since we can’t stomach any inconvenience, nor cost, that impinges on our chosen wasteful lifestyle.

  9. I live third world Asia. I wish everyone lived third world for at least a year – you’d see just how bad the environment has become. And we all share the same oceans and air. Anything that reduces waste is a good thing, regardless of the .0000% of it. And if you think these seas choking in plastics, and air with record PMI readings is someone else’s fault, it’s a race to “success” fueled by the West’s capitalistic system that they spread all over the world that’s ruining the world. Simply put, you can’t survive in a finite world with an infinite-resource approach.

  10. Plastic in general is “evil”. I don’t remember having anything plastic when growing up and somehow we got along just fine. There are paper straws now that are much stronger than the ones we had many years ago. I haven’t gotten plastic bags from the grocery store in 25 years, take my own bags.

  11. All the plastic floating & fouling Asia beaches is a behavioral issue, they don’t think twice about throwing garbage on the ground- regardless of what type it is. Many Boat captains don’t hand out bottled water because people just throw it overboard instead of into a trash can

  12. American and European plastics have been shipped to Asia for recycling fora long time, but countries there like China are beginning to refuse it. We’ve basically been dumping our waste over there while getting that warm fuzzy after putting it in the blue bin. The new fate of our recycled plastic will be the landfill or incineration. Some European countries are incinerating plastics for energy because of the high fuel value. Combustion and scrubber tecnology has greatly improved so it’s much safer now. Recycling as we know is going the way of the tooth fairy, but just don’t break the news to the kiddos.

  13. We’ve started using waxed cloth instead of plastic sheeting for covering items in the fridge. It’s like super heavy duty wax paper. Not only does it replace plastic wrap for a lot of things, but it can be reused over and over again.

  14. I’ll miss my athletic tech shirt, but outlawing plastics and resins would be OK with me. I’ll be surfing with the spirit of the Duke on my beeswax-coated surfboard. Forget recycling – it’s not gonna happen. Reduce global population and reduce human impact.

  15. interesting they hand out free plastic bags for people to pick up dog crap. I’ve seen more bags of dog crap laying around than plastic shopping bags.
    If “they had to start somewhere”, maybe they should start with the plastic dog crap bags!!

  16. Except that there is no proper place to dispose of it. Plastic cannot be recycled for the same use, only lesser uses. How many plastic park benches do we need, and what happens to them once they start breaking down due to sun exposure? Really, all plastic will eventually end up in the environment or a landfill, and it is crazy to use our beautiful valleys and canyons to store the excessive waste from our lazy society and preserve it under a clay cap for 1000s of years.

  17. 11:31 – I never said there are no plastic straws on the beach, way to over exaggerate. I simply said they are not the main source of plastic pollution as many would have us think. If you think finding “at least one” straw on a 3 mile walk of the beach is major pollution, then you need to take a look in your trash bag. I bet it’s filled with all the other, much more critical, pollutants that you mention – bits of styrofoam and dog poop bags. Why don’t we ban those? Seriously, don’t get all high and mighty because you know you’ll find “at least one” straw on a 3 mile walk. Haha!

  18. Plastic has become a corruption itself. Made of cheap residue of oil and tar it is the alternative to having to get rid of that crap in an environmentally responsible way. We are sold this stuff when it is obvious that most of it will never be used more than one time. We then salve our soul by pretending to “recycle” it but in truth there is no such market for most of it. Finally China and other Asian dumping grounds are refusing to accept this crap. Minimally the producers of plastics must be required to include in the selling price an amount to be used to recover the product at the other end of the retail process. More we must find a way to dispose of the product other than land fills which are an insult to future generations. Maybe they can be burned and the exhaust scrubbed to at least reduce the amount of toxin they produce. Possibly they should be simply illegal for all but clearly socially beneficial purposes.

  19. Heard on the radio this morning that the majority of litter found on SB beaches during clean-ups is either plastic straws or cigarette butts. I wonder what percent of the straws is from those little juice boxes and what from coffee drinks, smoothies, etc? That would be relevant in deciding what to change.

  20. JUN 27, 2019 12:54 PM>>>>>You haven’t been paying attention if you think “cig butts” are a negligible part of beach litter: According to NBC News: “The Ocean Conservancy has sponsored a beach cleanup every year since 1986. For 32 consecutive years, cigarette butts have been the single most collected item on the world’s beaches, with a total of more than 60 million collected over that time. That amounts to about one-third of all collected items and more than plastic wrappers, containers, bottle caps, eating utensils and bottles, combined.”

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