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Another City Cites Bogus Stats From 9-Year-Old to Justify Straw Ban

Vancouver is the latest city to take aim at singe-use plastic straws.

Stockcreations/Dreamstime.comStockcreations/Dreamstime.comPlastic straw bans—much like the waste they target—are spreading across the globe, polluting city councils and national parliaments alike with environmentalist movement's good intentions and undegradable bogus statistics.

The latest to fall is the Canadian city of Vancouver, which this week passed a prohibition on single-use plastic straws, as well as on foam cups and containers. The new law will forbid licensed food servers from giving away these items starting June 1, 2019.

The politicians who passed the latest straw ban are pretty pleased with their planet-saving efforts.

"This is a really important step forward to demonstrate how serious we are in phasing out plastics and making sure we are working aggressively towards zero waste," said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson in reference to the city's goal of eliminating waste and litter by 2040.

Other stakeholders were less than celebratory about the new ban.

"The stifling effect of this ban on innovation is very serious," Joe Hruska of the Canadian Plastic Industry Association announced in a press release. "This ban will do nothing to reduce the amount of material going to landfill or solve the public bin recycling and litter issues."

Also upset are Vancouver bubble tea merchants and consumers, who depend on plastic straws for sucking up the characteristic tapioca balls that come with the drink. "Our industry depends on straws," Katie Fung, a manager at Pearl Fever Tea House, said at a city council meeting. "This ban will be detrimental to many businesses in our city."

Recyclable paper straws are reportedly ill-suited for bubble tea consumption, and business owners have said that providing reusable metal straws is cost prohibitive.

Robertson, according to the Vancouver Sun, has pushed back on complaints about the cost of the straw ban, saying, "it's a dangerous thing to conflate taking action to be clean and green to creating more costs."

In justifying Vancouver's straw ban, city officials relied on the same discredited figures used to push similar prohibitions in the United States. The city's "Single-Use Item Reduction Strategy" states that Canadians collectively throw away 57 million straws a day. A footnote explains that this number is based on the 500 million straws a day Americans use, adjusted for Canada's population. The footnote provides a link to the recycling company Eco-Cycle, which has popularized this figure.

As Reason reported in January, Eco-Cycle itself got the 500 million straws a day figure from 9-year-old Milo Cress, who surveyed three straw manufacturers to get their estimations of the size of the straw market. Market analysts put daily straw usage in the United States closer to 175 million.

Assuming the same per capita consumption north of the border, that would mean that Canadians toss about 19 million straws a day.

Environmentalists might still find that figure too high, given how much plastic is dumped into the ocean each year. Still, it is worth noting that the vast majority of plastic waste getting into the world's waterways is not coming from rich countries with well-developed waste control systems. It comes instead from the world's poor, coastal countries. According to a 2015 study published in the journal Science, anywhere from 4.8 million to 12.7 million tons of plastic entered the ocean in 2010. China was the largest polluter, responsible for about 28 percent of all that waste. The United States was a distant 20th, responsible for about 1 percent of plastic marine debris in 2010. Canada, according to the study's dataset, ranks 112th, sending about .02 percent of global marine debris into the ocean.

Reducing waste, litter, and pollution is a noble goal. It's also a goal that comes with costs. Vancouver's businesses and consumers will now be forced to bear those costs in exchange for a miniscule dose of environmental improvement.

Photo Credit: Stockcreations/Dreamstime.com

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...it's a dangerous thing to conflate taking action to be clean and green to creating more costs.

    Dangerous to what?

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Well, for one thing, if the people (bless their black flabby little hearts) gotten the habit of actually running the numbers on feel-good laws, this legislator might actually have to work for a living.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Strawman args convince only straw people.

  • Brandybuck||

    ""...in reference to the city's goal of eliminating waste and litter by 2040.""

    Good luck reaching that goal. Eliminating litter, sure. But eliminating waste? I don't think he knows what that word means. Paper straws are waste. The soap used to wash metal straws is waste. Reducing waste is fine, but the idea that a city can eliminate waste is ridiculous. Even if you recycle it, it's STILL waste!

  • Rich||

    "Oh, very well. We'll eliminate *fraud* and litter."

  • CE||

    What is abuse, chopped liver?

  • Brandybuck||

    Eliminate chopped liver!

  • plusafdotcom||

    And bullying, teasing and frizzy hair on humid days, too!
    Occupy Humidity!

  • John||

    Reason still has not said a word about the FBI spying on Trump. Good to see they are so busy working the big issues like straws.

  • ||

    They're working on a woke straw man (get it?) article about how we think Jordan Peterson and the 'IDW crowd' are the new Jesus and the 12 Apostles.

  • Sevo||

    John,
    I didn't see anything this week, but now it looks like it's beginning to show up, even if the times puts it below the fold on page 20.
    "N.Y. Times confirms Obama spied on Trump"
    Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2018/05/
    n-y-times-confirms-obama-spied-on-
    trump/#4IPj5XEXzD5I1m2o.99

    WT is a bit better, especially in calling out that 'conservative press that conspired against the hag' (thanks, Tony!)
    "Obama spied on Trump's campaign. Where's the outrage?"
    https://www.washingtontimes.com/
    news/2018/may/18/obama-spied-
    trumps-campaign-wheres-outrage/

  • Sevo||

    More:
    "Many in the media are diving deeply into minutiae in order to discredit any notion that President Trump might have been onto something in March when he fired off a series of tweets claiming President Obama had "tapped" "wires" in Trump Tower just before the election.
    According to media reports this week, the FBI did indeed "wiretap" the former head of Trump's campaign, Paul Manafort, both before and after Trump was elected. If Trump officials — or Trump himself — communicated with Manafort during the wiretaps, they would have been recorded, too."
    http://thehill.com/opinion/campaign/
    351495-it-looks-like-obama-did-
    spy-on-trump-just-as-he-did-to-me

    Taking 'investigative reporting' to new lows, trying to find some crumb of doubt regarding Obo using the powers of the state to investigate a po0litical opponent.
    Putin *was* involved: As Obo's instructor on the corrupt use of government agencies.

  • Jerryskids||

    In a noble demonstration of my serious intent to address the problem of pollution, I'm going to order every resident of Vancouver to send me $20 so I can buy a solar-powered home somewhere on the beach in the Caribbean. No, no, don't thank me, it's the least I can do. I'm just naturally noble like that, demonstrating my serious nature with other people's money.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    environmentalist movement's good intentions

    Citation needed.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson in reference to the city's goal of eliminating waste and litter by 2040

    Wait... WHAT?

    What is it with these "municipal goals" that are really getting full of bravado. "We will eliminate traffic deaths by 2020!"

    "We will be carbon neutral by 2030"!

  • gormadoc||

    "We will conquer the Seattle by 2029!"

  • gormadoc||

    "the Seattle"

    Damn, I'm bad at this.

  • CE||

    Still a noble goal though.

  • HGW xx/7||

    Don't be hard on yourself. I actually like the sound of that: "the Seattle".

    It calls to mind a soul-crushing, dystopian existence, an almost singular creature that operates under a set of draconian regulation and rigid indoctrination. If the shoe fits for The Borg, The Seattle can sport the analog, assuming it's available as a locally-crafted, artisenal Birkenstock.

  • creech||

    I'd be more impressed if he said "and I will forfeit my government pension if this promise doesn't come true." All political promises should come with a penalty that is paid/forfeit if the promise isn't carried out or the legislation doesn't do what was promised.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Assuming the same per capita consumption north of the border, that would mean that Canadians toss about 19 million straws a day.

    I suspect that figure is much lower. You can't really suck poutine through a straw you know.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    But that is how Rufus qualifies his dates.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    *furiously taking notes*

  • Rich||

    Q: "What do you call a woman who can suck an orange through a garden hose?"

    A: "Darling."

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Future alimony check.

  • plusafdotcom||

    ... hmmm... I'm getting old...

    That one used to be "... suck-start a Harley."

  • Sevo||

    You CAN'T suck-start a Harley!

  • ||

    What if I wasn't here to read that?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    It wouldn't have been a hate crime. Now it is.

  • ||

    WHO DO I REPORT THIS TO?

  • plusafdotcom||

    The tree would still fall and it Would still make a sound...

  • CE||

    And you don't usually use a straw to drink Molson beer or Crown Royal whisky.

  • An Innocent Man||

    Ban straw men.

  • Longtobefree||

    If bogus statistics are the only ones you can find, you use bogus statistics.
    Otherwise, policy has to be based on facts, I mean really - - - - - - - -

  • hello.||

    If bogus statistics are the only ones you can find, you use bogus statistics.

    That's the Reason/Cato/Koch approach to immigration policy. It's different when other people do it I guess.

  • ||

    Thanks for nothing California. You fucken retards.

  • Sevo||

    At lunch today, we noticed those drinks which get straws we had paper ones.
    I mentioned to my wife that we were below average in that we didn't use 2-1/2 straws per day. She replied that she didn't think we *knew* any average people by that criteria.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I hate those fucking paper straws. I got one in one of my girly mixed drinks a few weeks ago, started dissolving in my drink. I don't even use straws normally, I wish they'd just not give me it over these damn paper ones. But at least the plastic ones have the decency to be non-invasive.

  • Sevo||

    To paraphrase a stolen comment:
    'We didn't start using plastic straws because we ran out of paper'.
    As a kid, I remember the paper ones collapsing and then needing replacement. Given the bogus source used here, I'm not about to ask regarding the enviro-econ of, oh, 2 or 3 paper straws compared to one plastic.

  • IceTrey||

    Think of all the trees that will have to be cut down to make those straws.

  • plusafdotcom||

    BUCS... the Free Market can solve the Problem...

    As soon as your paper straw collapses, ask for another one.
    I'd bet you could go through a few dozen over a leisurely dinner... each!

  • I'm Not Sure||

    We used to get paper bags at the market, but in order to save forests (never mind that trees are grown as crops to produce paper) we switched to plastic. But plastic straws are bad, so we're switching to paper? Guess it's best to not overthink these things.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I remember as a kid we would only get paper at the beginning of the semester when we needed to cover our books for school.

  • lap83||

    I remember having to use paper grocery bags, but that was during the Bush II Administration. It was practically Somalia back then

  • SIV||

    Glass is made of sand. We reached peak sand at the end of the 20th century. Now we have to recycle glass because almost all the sand is gone.

  • Intelligent Mr Toad||

    Science has the answer!

    Characterization and engineering of a plastic-degrading aromatic polyesterase

    Poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) is one of the most abundantly produced synthetic polymers and is accumulating in the environment at a staggering rate as discarded packaging and textiles. The properties that make PET so useful also endow it with an alarming resistance to biodegradation, likely lasting centuries in the environment. Our collective reliance on PET and other plastics means that this buildup will continue unless solutions are found. Recently, a newly discovered bacterium, ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, was shown to exhibit the rare ability to grow on PET as a major carbon and energy source. Central to its PET biodegradation capability is a secreted PETase (PET-digesting enzyme). ... By narrowing the binding cleft via mutation of two active-site residues to conserved amino acids in cutinases, we surprisingly observe improved PET degradation, ... Additionally, we show that PETase degrades another semiaromatic polyester, polyethylene-2,5-furandicarboxylate (PEF), which is an emerging, bioderived PET replacement with improved barrier properties.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/115/19/E4350

  • Sevo||

    Intelligent Mr Toad|5.18.18 @ 10:35PM|#
    "Science has the answer!"

    Well, "science" may have observed how evolution "has the answer":
    "It is, however, now widely recognized that plastics pose a dire global pollution threat, especially in marine ecosystems, because of the ultralong lifetimes of most synthetic plastics in the environment (1⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓–9)."
    Uh, I have yet to see that shown in objective terms, rather than romantic ones.
    From a representative link (cited):
    "High concentrations of floating plastic debris have been reported in remote areas of the ocean, increasing concern about the accumulation of plastic litter on the ocean surface. Since the introduction of plastic materials in the 1950s, the global production of plastic has increased rapidly and will continue in the coming decades. However, the abundance and the distribution of plastic debris in the open ocean are still unknown, despite evidence of affects on organisms ranging from small invertebrates to whales. In this work, we synthetize data collected across the world to provide a global map and a first-order approximation of the magnitude of the plastic pollution in surface waters of the open ocean."
    Note there is 'alarm', absent one bit of evidence of harm.
    Go ahead, pick the other cites. I tried three and found no better than this.

  • Sevo||

    Cont'd.
    "In response to the accumulation of plastics in the biosphere, it is becoming increasingly recognized that microbes are adapting and evolving enzymes and catabolic pathways to partially degrade man-made plastics as carbon and energy sources (10⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓–19)."
    So evolution is doing what evolution does; making use of resources! Good.

    "These evolutionary footholds offer promising starting points for industrial biotechnology and synthetic biology to help address the looming environmental threat posed by man-made synthetic plastics (19⇓⇓⇓–23)."
    The "looming [...] threat" being a sales pitch for the study, we can ignore that. But those making the claim here ought to make sure *their* efforts are less harmful than allowing evolution to make use of an energy source.

  • Intelligent Mr Toad||

    Sure, but the scientists have improved the PETase by site-directed mutagenesis. Evolution might do the same, but why wait?

  • Cy||

    TIL

    Boba tea = Bubble tea

  • buybuydandavis||

    "This is a really important step forward to demonstrate how serious we are"

    As in, not serious at all about actual environmental problems. Think of all the packaging used in a day. Think of a straw.

    What's really important here is using government to force people to genuflect to Gaia.

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