Plastic straws are now an issue in the 2020 campaign, and on this narrow policy question, President Donald Trump is the pro-freedom candidate.
Yesterday, the president's re-election campaign rolled out brand new Trump-themed plastic straws that are guaranteed to irritate environmentalists.
"Liberal paper straws don't work. STAND WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP and buy your pack of recyclable straws today," reads the sales pitch for the straws on Trump's 2020 campaign website. Despite a 10-pack going for a whopping $15, the merchandise appears to have already sold out.
Liberal paper straws don't work.
STAND WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP and buy your pack of recyclable straws today!https://t.co/nanyEFK938
— Team Trump (@TeamTrump) July 18, 2019
Trump spoke out on the issue today.
"I do think we have bigger problems…[but] you know, it's interesting about plastic straws. You have a little straw, but what about the plates, the wrappers & everything else that are much bigger and made of the same material?" Trump said when asked by a reporter whether he supported banning plastic straws.
Q: Are you in favor of banning plastic straws?
Trump: I do think we have bigger problems..[but] you know, it's interesting about plastic straws. You have a little straw, but what about the plates, the wrappers & everything else that are much bigger and made of the same material? pic.twitter.com/g0n4eTvfpN
— POLITICO (@politico) July 19, 2019
Opponents of straw bans can't afford to be choosy with their allies, but it is sad to see plastic straws—once a noble symbol of resistance to government tyranny—being appropriated to re-elect a president who thinks the Bill of Rights is just one more invoice he doesn't have to pay.
Trump is not wrong to point out, in his own meandering way, that straws are a small portion of overall plastic consumption. Data from litter surveys and beach cleanups find that straws are far outpaced by things like candy wrappers, cups, and cigarette filters.
When Starbucks stopped topping some of their drinks with their traditional cup-and-lid combo, they ended up replacing them with strawless lids that used more plastic.
Trump's campaign is also correct in pointing out that "liberal paper straws" are a poor substitute given their propensity to dissolve in drinks or crumple when being poked through lids. These deficiencies are why plastic straws replaced paper ones to begin with.
However, the Trump campaign, while being good on straws, also lends credence to another bogus environmental panic by advertising their Trump-themed straws as "BPA free."
BPA, short for Bisphenol A, is a chemical often found in plastics. A number of studies raised some concerns that its presence in food packaging could be hazardous to human health, which in turn fanned alarmist calls to ban the chemical or boycott products that contain it.
The plastic straw is a helpful and cheap drinking utensil that has been unfairly maligned as an environmental menace. Keeping them legal should be a matter of sound science, not an attempt to win another battle in a toxic culture war.