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Activists Say Straws Should Be Banned Because They Are a 'Gateway Plastic'

Advocates hope a straw ban will be the first step toward broader plastic prohibitions.

Tashka2000/Dreamstime.comTashka2000/Dreamstime.comPlastic straw bans won't help the environment, but that's no reason not to pass them.

Or so argue straw prohibitionists who want the little suckers outlawed in the hope of provoking environmentally friendly soul searching among inconvenienced consumers. "Straw bans aren't going to save the ocean, but they could jumpstart much-needed conversations about the level of non-biodegradable trash in them," writes Vox's Radhika Viswanathan, who gets all the facts about straws and their minimal effect on the environment right but still manages to come out in favor of a ban.

Viswanathan is joined by Dune Ives, executive director of the environmental group Lonely Whale, which has has targeted straws as a "gateway plastic." With "plastic water bottles too endemic, plastic bags already somewhat politicized, and no viable alternative for the plastic cup in ALL markets," Ives wrote in an October 2017 blog post, her organization had to find something to ban.

Straws, Ives says, made the perfect target: too inconsequential to really be missed but so ubiquitous that their absence would be noticed. "To us, it was the 'gateway plastic' to the larger, more serious plastic pollution conversation," says Ives, whose organization was instrumental in getting Seattle to ban straws with its "Strawless in Seattle" campaign.

Does it make sense to support ineffectual bans in the hope that they might, through the power of conversation, spark an attitudinal change? Petty restrictions on people's behavior usually makes them less sympathetic, not more, to the cause the rules are supposed to serve. And whatever benefits they might produce must be weighed against the very real costs they impose on those forced to comply with them.

Consider Caroline Lee, the owner of Young Tea, a bubble tea shop in downtown Seattle. She has been rushing to replace her stock of plastic straws with the now-mandated biodegradable type by July 1, when the city's ban goes into effect. "I would say that it's six to seven times more expensive than the regular plastic straw," Lee says.

These compostable straws are also less durable, which increases shipping and storage costs. "It cannot endure high heat," Lee says. "When we ship it over sea, we use an insulation blanket to cover the cartons. It's pretty expensive." She adds that the new straws last only 16 months before becoming stale and unusable.

These costs, says Lee, are forcing her to impose some new austerity measures on her customers. "Some of the customers would grab two straws," she says. "We have been generous about that. Now we just give one straw per drink, and we are thinking of raising up the price a little bit to compensate for the costs."

Lee says she shares the concerns animating the straw banners but is nevertheless conflicted about the policy. "As a business owner it is hard," she says. "It's more costs for us, but I too am concerned about so many plastics…so for me it's complicated." Lee suggests the city should compensate businesses affected by the straw ban by lowering their taxes.

No such plans are in the works. Instead the city will fine Lee $250 for any violations of the new straw policy.

The burdens placed on Lee and business owners like her seem to be pretty far from the minds of straw banners. Viswanathan's Vox article spends not a word on how bans affect businesses. Neither did Ives' Lonely Whale group when it was pimping paper straws during its "Strawless in Seattle" blitz last September.

Activists instead are choosing to focus on the magical, planet-saving conversations that will spring from diners, drinkers, and coffee sippers who are told they can't grab an extra straw on the go.

Photo Credit: Tashka2000/Dreamstime.com

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  • Just Say'n||

    "The burdens placed on Lee and business owners like her seem to be pretty far from the minds of straw banners."

    No, progressivism is totally not just an ideology espoused by rich liberals and college kids who make life worse for working people. Just ignore all the compelling evidence to the contrary.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    Losers just complain.

    I wonder if this is an opening for the hemp industry.

  • Reformed Republican||

    People need something to take their mind off of this crap.

  • Longtobefree||

    Enter the supreme court nomination process - - - - -

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    Take a look at the roots of progressivism. They were doing the same sorts of things a century ago when they were open and honest about their racism and elitism.

  • TeamsterX||

    Back to the rolled up $20 dollar bill :(

  • Johnimo||

    I like your humor, TeamsterX. However, I think folks will just stick a plastic "personal" straw in their backpack, briefcase, purse, or hip pocket. After use, they'll take it home, rinse it with hot water, and set it aside with the other "to go" stuff for the following work day.

    Problem solved. Plus, it'll drive the radical leftists nutso when they see someone sucking through a plastic straw. Should be really, really entertaining to watch.

  • Roger the Shrubber||

    Who the hell is going to carry around and then wash their 'personal straw' when they can just buy a box of straws to carry around and dispose of after use like a normal person?

    500 paper wrapped straws - $8 at Wal-mart

  • damikesc||

    It should be noted that Lee isn't totally opposed to it.

    Showing that Lee is a God damned moron.

  • Roger the Shrubber||

    'Lee suggests the city should compensate businesses affected by the straw ban by lowering their taxes.'

    Like a good proggie, she approves of the regulation but wants any costs to be borne by someone else.

  • Salmonsnail||

    It's sorta works, talking about it that is. I will use less plastic going forward.

  • Salmonsnail||

    If you see a typo "its" the real Slim Shady.

  • Just Say'n||

    The problem isn't that you used the wrong "its", but rather that no "s" is necessary. Also, your point was garbage

  • Salmonsnail||

    Jesus fucking christ man. I know that it's "it" and not "its". I needed a new typo in my second comment so you would know its was me. By the way I 'think' I should have said "fewer" straws and not "less" straws.

  • Just Say'n||

    Oh, Cathy

  • Salmonsnail||

    I feel sorry for you. Have a nice day.

  • Just Say'n||

    Thank you for the sympathy

  • ||

    Actually, it's beginning to be like the thetruth.com commercials where I'm not a smoker and have never been a regular smoker but the commercials are so god damned annoying I almost want to go out and smoke out of spite.

    I'm an adult, 90+% of my beverages are consumed out of an open glass. The other

  • ||

    ... less than 10% use a plastic lid and straw because spillage is between likely and imminent. Using the law to start a conversation about such trivial shit constitutes a form of tyranny in my book. It makes me want to go buy straws and dump them in the ocean just to fuck over your tyranny.

  • Johnimo||

    Buy the straws, but don't dump them in the ocean. Instead, leave them on the counter or tables surreptitiously -- one or two at a time -- for others to use. It'll drive the left crazy.

  • BILKER||

    that is exactly what everyone should do. But make sure you throw em on the windy side of town so that the ones who voted for the laws can enjoy the results.`--`

  • Microaggressor||

    I was kind of appalled when I first saw that, the one where it went on about how the majority of smokers are filthy poors being exploited by Big Tobacco. I can only imagine how condescending that would feel if it were directed at me. No agency, no choice, it's just assumed you're too stupid to make intelligent decisions because you're being TARGETED by evil corporations.

    It's so obvious that the people who came up with it in live within the elite coastal bubble and couldn't be bothered to interview one of those bitter clingers, just impose judgment on them. Can't seem to find it on youtube though.

  • Flinch||

    Don't you dare single side this: the 'evil corporations' are operating only because big, evil governments around the world are getting 80% of the take [net] - they have no production, advertising or distribution costs, and invest zero when it comes to getting product to consumer. All they do is collect. Governments [including the US] make way, way more off of cigarettes than private companies, which... is an astounding amount of money to begin with.

  • TeamsterX||

    wow once plastic/rubber is gone, the old lady is going to hate that reclaimed barn wood lumber dildo.

  • CuriousKevMo||

    Note to self: buy stock in DeWalt and Porter Cable. Big orbital sander sale coming.

  • Whorton||

    Since I am not in California, I will use MORE plastic going forward!

    I wonder what happens if you live in California and order plastic straws from Amazon? I can see a great plastic straw pipeline stretching from New Jersey to California. . .The plastic highway!

    "Plastic, the most trusted name in STRAWS"

    "Nothing Sucks like Plastic!"

    "Coca-Cola goes better with PLASTIC STRAWS"

    "If you don't own a plastic straw, get one!"

    "Suck it up, Plastic Straws are GOOD"

    "PLASTICS STRAWS are a STRAW MAN"

    "PLASTIC TRUMPS PAPER"

    "PLASTIC. . .Suck IT!"

  • Rhywun||

    "I too am concerned about so many plastics"

    Liar.

  • Microaggressor||

    "I'm being interviewed and don't want to be lynched by the cult of right-thinkers in their home city"

  • Don't look at me.||

    This line of thinking is really weak sauce. Piss everyone off to start a conversation? Why not just start a conversation with some compelling ideas?

  • Just Say'n||

    Also, straw ban or not, bubble tea is awful. Absolutely awful.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Now I have to hate you.

  • ||

    Is that what that is? It looks like a rabbit took a shit in someone's smoothie.

  • CuriousKevMo||

    OMG, this is priceless. Mine now.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    You are dead to me.

  • Microaggressor||

    All future opinions discarded.

  • TeamsterX||

    They are only mad because they could not figure out how to keep drinking when then rabbit turd got stuck on the end.

  • Rhywun||

    It is refreshing to hear one tiny bit of honesty from these control freaks ("my idea is stupid and won't work"). But totally predictable that they just want to control harder because of it. They need to be ridiculed into silence but as is so often the case it's hard to get any momentum for the "no, things are fine the way they are" side of the argument.

  • Iheartskeet||

    I have a feeling that the acknowledgement that it won't work is to pre-empt any argument on the bans real world effect, and shift the discussion to its more esoteric benefits, which aren't falsifiable. So, I don't give them a cup of piss worth of credit for "honesty".

  • Longtobefree||

    Follow the money.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    So if this makes any headway, I might want to invest in a company making paper straws, like Aardvark or Global?

  • Longtobefree||

    You might want to invest in a politician who gets to make the rules of which companies and businesses will be allowed to exist.

  • Echospinner||

    Or in Amazon which sells plastic straws ($5.99 for a pack of 500 and in neon colors). That would be double subversive for Seattleites.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    The Hummingbird tongue prosthetic industry must be stopped!

  • SRoach||

    Remind me never to move to Seattle. It sounds like a terrible place to live.
    Banning something to start a conversation? With me, and I suspect a number of other people, you get obstinance.

    If I ever have to visit there again, you can bet I'll switch from my normal 16 ounce aluminum cans to 20 ounce plastic bottles for the duration.
    And I might even use a straw.

  • BILKER||

    "Remind me never to move to Seattle." The terrible thing about that is Seattle is coming to you. Ban any residents of Seattle from moving to your areas. Same for West L.A. and frisco residents. Keep em caged in their own hell holes.

  • perlchpr||

    That is, I suppose, one of the few benefits of New Yorkers. They're every bit as insanely proggy as the folks in SF, but they're so enamored of their city that they mostly stay there.

  • ||

    Again. Can we for once not enable STUPIDITY?

  • Flinch||

    We dream and dream... ah, well: if you figure out how to stop stupid, let me know - my wife won't budge from her spot.

  • Iheartskeet||

    If they had any real deep seated convictions, they'd fly to Chile or China and do the hard work of convincing those places to reduce ocean waste (IIRC they generate a huge share vs the US). But this all about moralizing and control, not outcomes.

  • croaker||

    Ban a straw, go to jail.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    They can have my straw when they pry it from my cold, dead teeth!
    Or something...

  • Michael Cook||

    I live in a Seattle suburb and worked in the downtown Seattle jail for many years on the 7th floor, which was devoted to the psych unit and its moderate to severe clients (don't say inmates!)

    Cosmopolitans operate thusly: (1) They establish their preferred terms for everything and demand absolute agreement that their definition of the nature of an identified issue is morally and inarguably the only one possible. (2) Once they establish the rigid narratives, no amount of reality will ever change their minds.

    Here is reality. There are lots of affordable, vacant homes in our state, but not near Seattle. Urban heroin campers are drawn to Seattle because every welfare/handout program under the sun exists there within a bus ride and they are all generous. In rural communities everything is more budget conscious. Rural authorities may not like to arrest you because that costs the town too much but they always know everything that you are up to. They may even force you to take a job to pay your back child support, etc.

    Seattle is anonymity, but it is political anonymity, almost like an at-large witness protection program. In truth, if every agency that interacted with every derelict put that data in a common data base, we would soon not have a "faceless" homeless problem at all. We would have 20,000 well-understood individuals whose life-histories and priorities for the entitlement incomes they do receive are much different than Seattle's establishment narratives.

  • perlchpr||

    I'm sure it's racist to keep track of homeless people.

  • Flinch||

    I think it all depends on the census. If they crank up a new category of the "indigenous, under the freeway and aqueduct dwellers of Anaheim" in the next census [as a method to cover up state government bad policies], then the answer will be yes. Only question is which journalist rings that bell first to claim their next virtue signal nod at some cocktail party on the upper west side.

  • Microaggressor||

    Which is why the solution is more welfare for the homeless.

    Seattle City Council just needs more of your money, then everything will be better.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    We should fuck with the vegans by returning to making everything out of animal byproducts.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Better yet, feed animals plastic straws.

  • Don't look at me.||

    Use drilled out rib bones to replace straws.

  • ||

    Fused spinal columns would be pretty badass.

  • Jimbo||

    No way! I love bendable straws.

  • Cloudbuster||

    To make them bendable, you could put rubber disks in betwee--Oh, damn.

  • Eeyore||

    Need to ban vegi-burgers, because they are clearly the gateway vegetable.

  • Flinch||

    Unfettered porkulence it is.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Plastic in the oceans is a direct result of irrational recycling policies brought by these dumbasses. Just like the deforestation in indonesia to feed feel-good euro biofuels. If you want less plastic in the ocean, then burn the shit. The only economical recycling is metals and a very, VERY limited set of plastics.

  • SRoach||

    Why not bury it? These are the same people who are concerned that coal and oil use are contributing to global warming. By burying this plastic, mostly carbon polymers, we'd be, and are, locking up a fair bit of carbon.
    Landfills are probably a lot more efficient at "carbon sequestration" than is pumping carbon dioxide into old natural gas wells.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    You can but it's cheaper to burn and you get energy out of it.

  • Microaggressor||

    Yeah, but landfills have a bad feel to them. Environmentalism isn't about outcomes.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    Plastic in the oceans is a direct result of irrational recycling policies

    Do you have a source for this?

  • Longtobefree||

    This is Reason; comments do not need citations any more than articles do.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Start here.

    Not perfect but searching on a phone is painful.

    The bottom line is that the west exports its shit to asia which has more lax laws resulting in dumping. And china is the model citizen compared to the other places this stuff goes.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    Thank you!

  • Jimbo||

    *When they outlaw straws, only outlaws will have straws.

  • Longtobefree||

    Suck it!

  • Microaggressor||

    The Eric Garners of the future will be peddling loose straws.

  • Flinch||

    This is going to be a problem. Straws are going to be hard to throw over the wall, as certain mexicans shift from exporting seedy low grade dirt weed to black market plastics. We can look forward to the poor quality control allowing PCB's into the mix, and an "unexplained" explosion of lymphatic cancer etc.?

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    Straws, Ives says, made the perfect target: too inconsequential to really be missed

    I've kept my diabetic wife alive a dozen times over the last 30 years with a bottle of orange juice and a bendy straw when she has gone hypoglycemic enough that regular drinking is not an option.
    Does that sound inconsequential? Not to me!

  • Longtobefree||

    Keep her straws in a holder right next to your sidearm.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    Keep her straws in a holder right next to your sidearm.

    Actually, that's about 2 feet and a plastic cup from the literal truth.

  • ||

    That's too nuanced and humane for the retard left. Don't expect them to care about such details.

    Besides, there are too many humans on earf we've been told.

  • Ron||

    don't worry we will have prescriptions for those who need straws for medical purposes. they will of course cost you a fortune and the black market will open up for back alley straw purchases.

  • yawbus||

    "Activists instead are choosing to focus on the magical, planet-saving conversations that will spring from diners, drinkers, and coffee sippers who are told they can't grab an extra straw on the go." Yeah...that will certainly change hearts and minds. Just like calling voters 'deplorables' made them see the errors of their ways and cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton.

  • tgrondo||

    I'm opening a planet-saving restaurant where our re-usable drinking straws will be chained to the tables...

  • Longtobefree||

    The democrat party is the gateway to socialism. Can we ban them "just to start a discussion"?

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Sounds fair.

  • BILKER||

    no. they have already passed a law banning laws that ban democrats.

  • prolefeed||

    On the plus side, the Texas Supreme Court unanimously ruled that bag bans run afoul of state law.

  • Flinch||

    Back to the dark ages... paper straws that collaps after 5 minutes in our drinks. Can we just ban activists instead?

  • Ron||

    there will be a new market for straws made from actual straw and for the luxury minded bamboo. Yes it will cost far more but it will put a couple of people in business.

  • BILKER||

    prolly the same people that started the banning. Just look at gerry browns' wet dream train. i'd venture a guess that either or both of pelosi and feinsteins' husbands construction companies have their fingers buried up to the third joint and they're not rotating their thumbs.

  • blondrealist||

    I remember volunteering for a local "Adopt-a-Road" effort. These used to be popular in my community. Various groups apply to the county to "adopt" a section of a road - something like a quarter mile (I think), the county puts up a sign that says "Adopt-a-Road" and the name of the volunteer organization. The volunteers would agree to pick up litter on the roadside periodically for a certain time - I think it was a year (but don't remember).

    The section of road my bicycle club adopted began near a McDonald's and extended in to a residential neighborhood (middle class to slightly upper middle class). It was astounding to me how many straws there were on the roadsides. I remember thinking that it seemed like every other customer of that McDonald's must have been throwing their straws out the window as soon as they headed down the road after leaving the restaurant. It was truly ridiculous. I am not suggesting banning plastic straws is a good idea. What I will say is that people are pigs - they litter indiscriminately and the volume of trash they toss out of their vehicles is astounding.

  • Ron||

    thats the real point isn't it, a straw man argument its a litter solution but like guns they go after something else to solve a problem that has nothing to do with the straw

  • DrZ||

    As is the usual case activists are focused on virtue signalling, but not making a difference. It's well known that plastic pollution from the U.S. is not a significant factor. Instead of going to the root of the problem, activist wave their arms and shout look how virtuous I am.

    If they would hop in airplanes and go to China and Vietnam to name a few and tell these people who are the big contributors to stop it - now, then activist will show the world that they are serious about really doing something other than showing to their neighbors how impotent they really area.

  • Longtobefree||

    But they would show all that on their way to the wall.

    (other countries build wall; not all are for border control)

  • Mark22||

    Other activists say that Democrats should be banned because they are "gateway communists".

  • Malvolio||

    If the purpose of the straw ban is to "start a conversation", then obviously I have a First Amendment right to a straw — you know, to avoid being part of the conversation.

  • tgrondo||

    "The Conversation"

    Straw Banner: I see you're using a plastic straw....

    Me: Yeah....

    Straw Banner: You realize all straw users should be executed for crimes against mother earth....right?

    Me: Ah....What?

  • Longtobefree||

    Me: "I see you are exhaling carbon dioxide. You and you alone are responsible for a 0.0000002 mm rise in the oceans of the world. Please go stand on a compost pile and kill yourself in a non-warming manner."

  • tgrondo||

    Straw Banner: OMG you're right, I SHOULD kill myself...! But I can't use a gun or knife, we've banned those...
    Can't hang myself...cause all I've got is this nylon rope...Can't take sleeping pills...don't wanta be the tool of Big Pharma...Guess I'll just have to nag myself to death...

  • Sewblon||

    It would make more sense to ban plastic cups. Reusable cups exist. reusable straws don't exist. The point of these bans should be to get people to use the reusable versions of disposable things.

  • BILKER||

    Yes. Absolutely. Lets go back to the distant past where perishables came in reusable glass and steel bottles and cans.
    Anyone remember the milkman delivering milk, eggs and butter and leaving them on the porch? And it was whole milk and real butter. And the ice cream truck. And the Helms truck. And radio serials. rant rant rave rage. I apologize I was digressing.
    BTW F*CK DENIRO F*CK WATERS

  • Chasman1965||

    Reusable straws do exist. Go to Wal-Mart to the section that has the Yeti-imitation tumblers. Stainless steel straws are sold there. Also, the old "silly" straws were reusable.

  • Michael Cook||

    Flash forward to the year 2028 in Seattle. Your car heads itself into the drive through at Rainbow House of Burgers to pick up the order you placed while still 20 min. away in traffic. You didn't name the restaurant or place the call, you just blurted out what you are hungry for. Your car does the rest.

    When you arrive at the pick-up window you do not see a human being. Your order appears and is thrust out at you. Payment is accomplished by a combination of a license plate reader and facial recognition technology. It is rumored that two human beings work inside the building and make the $45/hr minimum wage but no customer has ever seen them or knows what they do in there.

    Hopefully you will finish your meal before more than an hour goes by, because the container and food wraps are made of accelerated biodegradable materials. This means they start leaking and falling apart in your hands rather quickly. Anything not biodegradable was micro-tagged when the order was prepared so that if the item shows up as roadside litter you can be caught and prosecuted.

    Hamburgers, of course, are made from "clean beef" and grown in a way that does not necessitate butchering an animal with a face or much else you would expect a cow to have.

  • tgrondo||

    Ah yes...In our "accelerated biodegradable future" the wrapper your burger comes in will be the tastiest part of the meal!

  • BILKER||

    "It is rumored that two human beings work inside the building and make the $45/hr minimum wage but no customer has ever seen them or knows what they do in there." Rather like the mysterious houses of congress that pass idiototic laws like this. they all say "din do nuffin".
    BTW F*DENIRO F*CK WATERS

  • Echospinner||

    If you are worried about ocean plastic why not do something useful?

    I am curious about this ocean cleanup project I read about. A pretty simple idea invented by a young man. A system of floating tubes with nets hanging down in a U shape. The idea is the currents trap the plastic in the nets and a boat comes around after some months and takes out the trash.

    You would put them in those areas in the ocean where the currents pool the plastic.

    Supposed to have one out in a year. They are crowdfunded If it works could be something good and does not sound too expensive.

  • Longtobefree||

    And then where does the boat go, and what does it do with the trash?

  • BILKER||

    One could accomplish the same thing using seaweed harvesters and we wouldn't have to enrich the boat builders. The plastics could be shredded to small pieces and used to augment reclaimed tires and asphalt to repave our highways. If plastic lasts forever then our highways will last a good long while.

  • Rockabilly||

    Now I"m going shopping to buy as many straws as possible then you can BLOW ME - activists nut job.

  • tgrondo||

    When I was a kid I remember using some kind of wax covered paper straws...were those better for the environment ?

    My prediction is next they'll outlaw plastic cups....

    Me: Can I have a Coke please?
    Mickey D's: Ok....hold out your hands....
    Me: What?
    Mickey D's: Yes sir....no more cups....drink fast!
    Me: Slurp...slurp!!!

  • Longtobefree||

    All is well until they attempt to ban plastic coffee stirrers. Then the revolution really begins!

    As soon as I finish this cup - - - - - -

  • Pat001||

    The plastic crisis is the insurance policy in case climate change doesn't work out.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Exactly!

  • Shirley Knott||

    Man, now they're even corpse-fucking the articles.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Does it make sense to support ineffectual bans in the hope that they might, through the power of conversation, spark an attitudinal change? Petty restrictions on people's behavior usually makes them less sympathetic, not more, to the cause the rules are supposed to serve.

    It's like these fucktards have no idea how human nature works.

  • macsnafu||

    Actions have consequences. Unless you're in political la-la land.

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