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The United Nations Cites Bad Straw Stats While Lauding Latin American Bans

Pushing punitive bans is a strange activity for an organization dedicated to defending human rights.

Martial Genest/Dreamstime.comMartial Genest/Dreamstime.comAs I reported back in January, the oft-cited factoid that Americans use 500 million plastic straws a day came from an enterprising 9-year-old's unconfirmed survey of three manufacturers. Despite this revelation, government agencies have continued to cite the number in support of restrictive straw policies.

That includes the National Park Service, which played a crucial role in popularizing the number and still features it on its website, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which included the number in its July ordinance making it illegal for restaurants and retailers to give customers plastic straws. Now the U.N. is getting in on the action.

"Straws represent only 0.025% of the total volume of marine litter," says a story hyping anti-straw efforts in Latin America that the U.N. Environment Program posted on Wednesday. "But the amount of straws we consume in our daily lives is so huge that this number increases exponentially every day. In the United States alone, 500 million straws are used daily in restaurants, hotels and homes."

The first figure is correct. The second is not. Neither is the suggestion that straw use is growing exponentially. (I would really like to meet the person who uses one straw today, two the next day, and is up to 64 straws a day by the end of the week.)

It might be tempting to forgive the U.N. for its error were it not employing the bogus number to justify some shockingly strict straw bans south of the Rio Grande.

Rio De Janeiro, for instance, passed a straw ban in July that threatens violators with fines as high as $1,600, or about 10 percent of the average Brazilian's yearly income. The local government, the U.N. story approvingly notes, has even set up a hotline for concerned citizens (or jealous competitors) to report scofflaw straw servers. The government of Ecuador also gets a mention for its prohibition on the sale or use of single-use plastic straws on the Galapagos islands, as do the Mexican states of Baja California Sur and Veracruz for their straw bans.

Given the human rights abuses that have come hand in hand with plastics bans in places like Kenya, Rwanda, and now Somalia (where the terrorist group Al Shabab has banned plastic bags), one might hope the U.N. would be a little more concerned about how these less-than-liberal governments enforce their straw prohibitions. Instead, it is publishing glowing stories about their accumulation of more powers.

Photo Credit: Martial Genest/Dreamstime.com

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  • ||

    or jealous competitors

    Why stop there? Are disgruntled ex-partners unable to use the line? Annoyed neighbors? Agents of the state who would use bankrupting a local business as leverage in their protectionist racket?

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Pushing punitive bans is a strange activity for an organization dedicated to defending human rights."

    Check your premises

    You probably think that Antifa is anti fascist

  • Rat on a train||

    Hey. The UN even has a Commission on Human Rights Council which has always required the highest standards from members to ensure that everyone knows how much the UN hates Israel.

  • David Nolan||

    Many victims are anti-fascist. Ask any Jew.

  • Ron||

    the level of the fines alone tells you it not about whats good its really about how much that they can control. Just maybe the outragous fines will get people to realize what they are doing and start to fight back against the control. NOT

  • My Dog Bites Better Than Yours||

    "Straws represent only 0.025% of the total volume of marine litter," ... 500 million straws are used daily in restaurants, hotels and homes."
    The first figure is correct. The second is not.

    Umm,,, no. How do you measure the amount of garbage in the ocean? Identify exactly what that garbage is?

    It is a herculean task to measure anything within 25 parts per million. I suspect the "500 million per day" is less bullshitty of the two statements.

  • Libertymike||

    Let us not forget that Tom Brady is also urging everybody to stop using straws.

    What a pansy.

  • JeremyR||

    UN and human rights? This is a joke post, right?

  • David Nolan||

    (A friend in Colorado tells me she now buys marijuana in a store, and plastic straws in an alley from a dealer)

    Hmmm, I'd never seen that -- National Parks. Makes sense there -- as they don't rot away. I can't get all panicky at plastic straws "clogging up" the City Dump. That's why dumps exist..

    Burt instead of a ban, why not have paper straws at park entrances, at a "drive-through" height And a note ASKING to not bring plastic in the future. with a picture showing plastic straws in some deliciously beautiful natural setting?

    As word of the parks spread, people would be less likely to litter anywhere. The vast majority of us don't need a gun to our heads for such elementary things. (parklands and/or littering)

    Oh wait, we must now TOTALLY hate the "other side" on everything,. (As the political class manipulates us for their own power) Never mind.

  • David Nolan||

    (A friend in Colorado tells me she now buys marijuana in a store, and plastic straws in an alley from a dealer)

    Hmmm, I'd never seen that -- National Parks. Makes sense there -- as they don't rot away. I can't get all panicky at plastic straws "clogging up" the City Dump. That's why dumps exist..

    Burt instead of a ban, why not have paper straws at park entrances, at a "drive-through" height And a note ASKING to not bring plastic in the future. with a picture showing plastic straws in some deliciously beautiful natural setting?

    As word of the parks spread, people would be less likely to litter anywhere. The vast majority of us don't need a gun to our heads for such elementary things. (parklands and/or littering)

    Oh wait, we must now TOTALLY hate the "other side" on everything,. (As the political class manipulates us for their own power) Never mind.

  • Hank Phillips||

    The Rio de Janeiro use of straws as an additional lever for official blackmail and extortion has more to do with prohibition of plant leaf products than the planet-destroying properties of plastic straws. Then again, wax-coated paper straws are easily destroyed (as evidence) with a match or cigarette lighter.

  • Muzzled Woodchipper||

    If only Rio were more concerned with cleaning the raw sewage from its waters, it might be a nicer place.

    But they opted to go after fucking straws instead.

    Don't get me wrong, parts of Rio are sublime. But the vast majority of it is a crime ridden, garbage ridden shit hole that makes even the ghetto-iest ghettos in the US look like vacation resorts.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Why are legislators listening to nine-year-old kids?

  • markm23||

    "Why are legislators listening to nine-year-old kids?" Why wouldn't they listen to people smarter than them?

  • Jerry B.||

    A new method of warfighting.

    If your enemy has a straw ban, drop millions of straws on them, and they'll fine each other out of existence.

  • David Nolan||

    ^This!

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ""Given the human rights abuses that have come hand in hand with plastics bans in places like Kenya, Rwanda, and now Somalia (where the terrorist group Al Shabab has banned plastic bags), one might hope the U.N. would be a little more concerned about how these less-than-liberal governments enforce their straw prohibitions. Instead, it is publishing glowing stories about their accumulation of more powers."'

    Boko Haram approves

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    You mean those National Parks which have been relentlessly paving all their camping areas and widening their roads so giant RV's can visit and pay far more for those services than us lowly campers ever did? That national park service? Yeah, straws should be a priority item...

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