Straws

European Plastics Ban Takes Aim at Straw Man

Plastic straws face another setback with a proposal for a continent-wide ban.

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Ittipon/Dreamstime.com

Brussels has moved on straws. On Monday the European Commission—the bureaucratic and executive arm of the European Union—proposed banning single-use straws, plates, cutlery, and cotton swabs.

The new rules would also require new labels for sanitary wipes and balloons, explaining proper disposal techniques. Makers of plastic food containers and cups would have to pay impact fees to help clean up their products. So will the makers of fishing gear (which makes up 27 percent of Europe's beach litter).

Everything not specifically banned—including bags, balloons, and cigarette filters—will be subjected to "awareness raising measures."

"This Commission promised to be big on the big issues and leave the rest to Member States," Frans Timmerman, the commission's vice president for sustainable development, said in a press release. "Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem, because plastic waste ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans, and in our food."

The straw ban will now be considered by the European Parliament and its Council of Ministers.

Most straw bans lean heavily on environmental justifications, and the E.U.'s is no exception, arguing that its new raft of anti-plastic measures will reduce marine litter to half of current levels while preventing 2.6 million tons of CO2 from being emitted by 2030.

The commission also claims that bans, restrictions, and taxes on certain plastic items will be great for the economy and for everyday consumers.

"Tackling marine litter creates economic opportunities," a commission white paper confidently declares. Banning some plastic products, it argues, will require producers to make new, better products that will in turn "create jobs as well as strengthen technical and scientific skills and industry competitiveness." Consumers will save €3.5 billion, claims the commission.

Needless to say, companies make and consumers use the existing crop of plastic products because they satisfy a need at the right price. Cheap and available plastic straws allow Europeans to drink beverages on the go, while plastic cotton swabs help them get gunk out of their ears in their free time. Neither benefit is life-changing, but they're benefits nonetheless. If these items are banned, consumers will have to splurge on more expensive versions of the products or else go without them completely. That's hardly a benefit for consumers.

The environmental benefits are questionable too. Plastic pollution is a global problem—and when you consider it on a global scale, the case for European restrictions becomes pretty thin.

A 2015 study on plastic marine waste found that most of it comes from populous coastal Asian countries such as China, Indonesia, and the Philippines, which have become rich enough to start consuming a lot of plastic but not rich enough give their waste collection systems the upgrade they need.

China alone accounts for 28 percent of annual marine plastic waste. Indonesia is another 10 percent.

Rich countries, despite being heavy plastic users, contribute relatively little plastic waste to our oceans mostly because we do a good job of disposing of the plastic that we do use. The U.S. and the coastal countries of the E.U. combined are responsible for less than 3 percent of all plastic waste.

Some experts on plastic pollution have thus acknowledged that bans on consumable plastics in rich countries won't make much of a difference.

"Let's say you recycle 100 percent in all of North America and Europe," Ramani Narayan, a chemical engineer at Michigan State, tells National Geographic. "You still would not make a dent on the plastics released into the oceans."

Such arguments have proven impotent in stopping the rapid spread of plastic straw bans. Just a year ago, only a few coastal California cities had either banned straws outright or restricted them with straw-on-request laws (which require the customer to ask for a straw before receiving one). Now, thanks in part to innumerable activist campaigns, some celebrity endorsements, and a viral video featuring a turtle, banning straws is a hip cause. Seattle implemented a straw ban in September 2017. Its northern neighbor Vancouver followed earlier this month. Both New York City and San Francisco are considering straw bans, as is the United Kingdom.

The U.K.'s environment minister, Michael Gove, even argued for Brexit on the grounds that a strengthened national government would be able to ban straws more quickly. Conversely, the E.U. is arguing that the plastic straw menace is the kind of problem that continent-wide government was built to handle.

"Given the propensity of litter to be carried by wind, currents and tide," reads the E.U. Commission report, "the problem of plastic pollution and marine litter is transboundary in nature and therefore cannot be tackled in isolation by Member States."

Whether the officials behind it are local, national, or supranational, a straw ban may soon be coming to a jurisdiction near you.

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  1. I bet Britches is sooo proud of that headline.

    1. He could have made it even better with some alt-text. Something like “Suck it, trypophobiacs!”. But this is Britches, and we know lack of alt-text is how he joyously shows disdain for us.

      1. If existing as an avatar of the concept of pure scorn is wrong, Britches don’t wanna be right.

  2. You know who else took aim at some straw men?

    1. Tony just constantly?

  3. “European Plastics Ban Takes Aim at Straw Man”
    We all see what you did there.

    1. Damn! Late to the party again.

  4. So I guess ABC canceled Roseanne Barr’s show because she said Soros was a bad guy and compared Valerie Jerrett to an ape or something like that. It is going to be fun watching the people who last week claimed that the NFL had no right to tell its employees to stop antagonizing their customers this week claim that ABC can and must do exactly that.

    For the record, it is ABC’s right to cancel her show if they think being associated with her costs them money or because they just want to money or no. Watching people flip flop on this is going to be entertaining.

    1. She compared Calerie Jared to an ape. That’s what got her show canned.

      She went full Trumpista and got punished for it.

      Moral of the story: use your head next time.

      1. Yeah, because no Democrat ever compared a black conservative to an ape or used the worst sort of racial stereotypes against them. Nope, it is all Trumpistas who do that. And Trump is the most racist guy ever. I mean ever. The fact that the NAACP has given him awards just proves how racist he is.

        And yes, we know she said something offensive and that is why ABC canceled her show. No everyone is as dumb as you are and needs to have an obvious point repeated. In fact, no one on here is as dumb as you are.

        1. She should’ve offered to go into rehab, after that actor did after using a gay slur years ago.

          1. My guess is that she did it on purpose. Now that her show is a proven ratings winner, she can negotiate a better contract with another network. No one who watches that show is going to stop watching it over this. I find it hard to believe some other network won’t pick up her show at more money after this.

            1. John, you are not capable of respondin to something bad a conservative did without some version of “oh yeah? well, what about that time a liberal did something equally bad or worse?”

              Do you realize how Pavlovian your responses are? You are like a trained monkey that reacts without any thought or self-reflection. Are capable of exercising some free will, or will you continue to react like an amobea recoiling from a negative stimulus?

              1. I won’t bemoan Roseanne getting fired for making an ass of herself.

                It just seems to be that networks are a bit, shall we say, “inconsistent” with their enforcement of these norms.

                1. I mean, Disney re-hired Keith Olbermann for ESPN. I bet he’s never made comments like Roseanne did…

                  1. Try unprintable screaming anti-German hatespews aimed at Trump?

              2. Pot, meet kettle.

              3. John, you are not capable of respondin to something bad a conservative did without some version of “oh yeah? well, what about that time a liberal did something equally bad or worse?”

                I wasn’t even aware Rosanne was a conservative. Who says she is?. And moreover, you again miss the point that whatever she is, you can’t say it has anything to do with Trump

                Do you realize how stupid you are? How amazingly simple minded you are? Likely not. It must be terrible going through life being as dense and incapable of subtle reasoning as you appear to be. But at least you are not Old Mexican. So, it could be worse I guess.

                1. So no and no to my questions.

                2. I wasn’t even aware Rosanne was a conservative.

                  Over the last decade or so, she’s been as far left as humanly possible.

              4. Wait, I thought calling people “monkeys” was bad…

        2. Re: John,

          Yeah, because no Democrat ever compared a black conservative to an ape

          Yeah. Your “what aboutism” toolkit is certainly full.

          1. No retard. It doesn’t make it right. It is just to point out that your characterization of this as “Trumpism” is like most things you say untrue and retarded.

            You really should try responding only to posts the content of which you understand. Granted, that would likely mean you would only post three or four times a year. But it would save you a lot of embarrassment.

          2. Only an orange-haired one to a chimpanzee?

            Actually, Abraham Lincoln’s given name sort of set him up for being compared to an ape–on height, not color.

        3. Jesus Christ, all they do is take subtle shots at Trump.

          Amazing.

          And it was one of the most watched shows on TV.

    2. she can negotiate a better contract with another network

      Not after key members of the writing and executive staff and arguably her main co-star bailed out.

      1. You won’t lose much losing Sykes. Sorry.

    3. Were they unaware that she is controversial?

      WTF.

  5. Reason 7,645 why Environmentalism is a political movement, not a scientific one.

    Fabulous startup will build a $4500 de-humidifier on your roof for… wait for it, 5 liters a day of “clean” drinking water.

    Thermodynamics and stuff? That’s for glibertarian nerds.

    1. Does it come with a Stil Suit?

      Dehumidifiers exist now. They are called air conditioners. I don’t see why you couldn’t collect the water that they discharge and drink it. But, I am not sure how this is some big deal. Also, aren’t most of the places where you would need drinking water also dry such that there wouldn’t be much water to take out of the air anyway?

      1. It’s a long video, and references a previously debunked product called the “Waterseer”. This goes into the thermodynamics of how much energy it takes to separate water from the air and carefully explains why it’s cheaper to fill a tanker truck and drive it across the country than it is to operate one of these things. The fact that they (presumably) have real engineers working for this company should make people queasy.

        1. Yeah. My home AC costs several hundred dollars a month to operate and produces maybe a quart of water a month and this is in a humid climate.

          1. Hmmm. Mine generates a lot more than that. When I was cleaning out the drain trap, I collected a couple liters in an hour in my bucket… Surprised me.

            In a humid climate, dehumidification would be its own benefit.

            1. When I was cleaning out the drain trap, I collected a couple liters in an hour in my bucket… Surprised me.

              When I top off the refrigerant in the spring, we usually have to set the temperature a little higher than we’d like as the coil will cool until it freezes solid and the resulting ice can’t exchange heat out of the air as efficiently. There are definitely days where we would produce several liters an hour but, I live

          2. Well that’s odd because mine produces a lot more than that in a dry climate and costs less than 50 bucks a month (window ac).

        2. The fact that they (presumably) have real engineers working for this company should make people queasy.

          Meh. I grew up in the biological sciences. We’ve had people studying single-celled organisms, yeast, and plants that don’t suffer cancer as models for cancer for almost half a century now. Whole degree fields centered around near-literal reading of tea leaves.

          1. If you’re an engineer trying to pull water out of the air, you better do some table-napkin calculations first.

      2. You would have to treat it. Legionella loves condenser water.

        1. He touches on the ‘safe/clean’ aspect as well. But spends more time on the amount of energy required to break atoms apart.


      3. …aren’t most of the places where you would need drinking water also dry such that there wouldn’t be much water to take out of the air anyway?

        Yes, which is why it’s a stupid idea. If there was enough ambient water to condense and drink, there would be no need to use a condenser in the first place to get your water. It’s a solution in search of a problem.

        1. According to a handy dandy online calculator, 35C air with 10% RH has 4g of water per cubic meter. Now pick your flow rate and condensing efficiency. One cubic meter per min shouldn’t be a problem and let’s say you can extract half the water. That’s 2g/min or about 1 liter every 8 hours.

          Scale as desired.

          1. I was assuming a desert or desert-like environment, and thinking of Sahara-like riverless and/or lakeless environments where the RH is something like 3%, but I should probably be thinking more along the lines of Arizona that I believe is somewhere in the 30%-60% range.

            That would be more realistic, I suppose. For some reason, I was thinking of the people who want to ‘bring water to the Sahara’ but that was a bad assumption on my part.

            1. Sahara has average RH of 25%.


      4. …aren’t most of the places where you would need drinking water also dry such that there wouldn’t be much water to take out of the air anyway?

        Yes, which is why it’s a stupid idea. If there was enough ambient water to condense and drink, there would be no need to use a condenser in the first place to get your water. It’s a solution in search of a problem.

    2. I am pretty sure that my A/C unit produces more than 5 liters a day of water.

      It just needs a filtration system to get all the mold spores out of it…

  6. “Neither benefit is life-changing.” Not so! Perhaps not profound, perhaps not worth trading in vaccinations and cellphones for, but q-tips and straws *are* life changing. They do come with externalities, though, and the externalities are worth considering. But straws and q-tips fulfill real desires — ones that were probably poorly articulated before their invention, but no less real for all that.

    1. Straws contribute with not having to drink a can of Coke by placing lips on a rim populated by dangerous germs.

      1. Next, you will be calling for a ban on salad tossing.

    2. Straws and Q-tips do have actual medical applications but with these regulations the quantity manufactured will be come so small that they will now have to charge a fortune due to their scarcity. but the EU thinks that charging more is a good thing

  7. Rich countries, despite being heavy plastic users, contribute relatively little plastic waste to our oceans

    Yes, but they contribute with 100% of all virtual signaling in this world. What do you want them to do — stop?

    Balderdash!

    1. Why are they wasting their time virtue signaling about the environment when they could be virtue signaling about the inherent superiority of the Mexican race!! Stupid Gringos.

      1. Unsolvable mystery, John!

        What about all those vaginal mutilators lurking under your very bed? Have you changed your sheets already?

        1. Yes, Mexican, Muslims are almost as superior as Mexicans. The claims that they engage in FGM and terrorism is just a racist myth started by stupid white people.

          You called it dude.

  8. I’m glad the EU has handled all of their other problems before tackling the pressing, PRESSING need to ban fucking plastic straws.

    1. They’re fucking now? That’s more pressing than I realized!

      1. How else would they multiply? If you were constantly being sucked on, wouldn’t you want to fuck too?

  9. So will the makers of fishing gear (which makes up 27 percent of Europe’s beach litter).

    WTH? Somebody needs to explain this to me as it seems unpossible. I can’t imagine their waterways are phenomenally clean and short of just chucking bait containers into the water when I’m done with them, I can’t figure out how (commercial?) fishing does that much damage.

    1. I feel like maybe there’s a decimal missing there.

      1. While that makes more sense, it still seems like going to the beach and catching fish, somehow, produces more plastic waste than if you’d just gone to the market and bought the fish pre-wrapped in plastic.

        1. Of course, I’m looking for certainty and clarity from highly subjective and selective environmental scientists. They probably find on piece of line a couple hundred yards meters long, wind it up in 1 foot .33 meter loops, snip it once, and count it as several thousand pieces.

    2. I suspect the other 63% is cigarette butts.


  10. “Tackling marine litter creates economic opportunities,” a commission white paper confidently declares. Banning some plastic products, it argues, will require producers to make new, better products that will in turn “create jobs as well as strengthen technical and scientific skills and industry competitiveness.” Consumers will save ?3.5 billion, claims the commission.

    Gee, you mean we can just regulate economic opportunities into existence without consequence? Why haven’t we been doing this all along?!?

    /sarc

    The truly bizarre thing is that people spout this environmental horseshit out of one side of their face while buying cheap imported shitty Chinese products. You see, people don’t give a shit about the environment they just don’t want any of the second order consequences of those buying habits to be visible to them from their backyard. That’s the bottom line here.

    If people actually cared about any of this, this shit wouldn’t need to be mandated by kings. Only a professional double-speaker would cite consumer benefit on mandating something that is literally against a consumer oriented market.

    1. Yep. Same as the nonsense where California et al. think they’re going to save the earth by cutting fossil fuels. Meanwhile China and India merrily continue to build hundreds of coal plants a year.

      1. It’s because CA is, by and large, protected from its idiocy.

        If they secede, they have no CONCEPT of how bad they will be fucked.

        1. I live here. If they secede I’m leaving, because the US constitution is the only thing that stops them from printing their own money to pay for their schemes. An independent California would turn into a Zimbabwe or Venezuela in a couple years.

          The only thing right about the politics of this state is the state constitution that requires a balanced budget. Only a matter of time before that gets repealed via referendum.

          1. its only balanced by the assumption that some day someone will pay off all of its loans. I see little difference between an unpayable loan and a deficit

  11. The EU and California are retards when it comes to plastic hysteria.

  12. Actually don’t give a damn about straws… With or Without, doesn’t make my life happier or sadder… Even milkshake i prefer to eat with spoons and i would be better served if the spoon is make of metal.

    1. Because making metal stuff causes no pollution.

  13. You know how the Left keeps saying we should be more like Europe? They just don’t understand Europe. This is the same continent that gave us Communism, Fascism, and Nazism. Progressivism is just a whitewash over Europe’s authoritarian tribalism.

  14. They should ban all plastics. See how that goes.

  15. “Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem, because plastic waste ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans, and in our food.”

    Citation needed.
    If it’s so undeniable, there ought to be a lot of references to cite.

    1. You noticed the lack of documentation of these obvious things too, eh?

    2. Yes, I’d like to see the evidence that Europeans are world-class litter bugs. The only way any straw I ever used wound up in the ocean is if the garbage collectors dumped the trash off the pier – and most of those garbage collections were unionized socialists working for a government.

  16. If disposable plastics are really so evil then why not ban disposable condoms, diapers, and feminine hygiene products of all kinds. Those end up on the beach and in the water supply all the time, and when they do gross me out more then straws.

  17. Jesus Christ. Europe is insane. Every time I think about how horrible things have gotten here, I just need to read about the shit going on in Europe to realize how much better it is here. They’re literally worse than Big Brother in so many ways nowadays, as I don’t recall him banning straws!

  18. Put it this way: I’ve had mononucleosis once. I don’t want to be reinfected with a new mutation, or infect others with my old one. So if I don’t get a disposable straw, I don’t get a *drink.* Period. Restaurants should recycle their straws but they stand to lose a lot of money from this stupid virtue-signalling routine.

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