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Stossel: Plastic Straw Myths

The claim that Americans use 500 million plastic straws daily is based on a nine-year-old's school project.

Have you used a plastic straw lately? Did you feel guilty? Celebrities and activists hope so! They want us all to #stopsucking.

Politicians took notice. Seattle recently banned plastic straws, and other places are considering similar bans.

Companies are also getting in on the trend; Starbucks recently decided to phase out plastic straws in all its stores by 2020. Other companies like American Airlines, Sea World, and Royal Caribbean are planning to ban plastic straws.

In our latest video, Stossel TV contributor Kristin Tate, author of How Do I Tax Thee, examines what a straw ban would accomplish.

Angela Logomasini, a senior fellow at Competitive Enterprise Institute, told Tate that "the idea that you're going to ban straws and save the world is ridiculous."

Plastic pollution in the ocean is a real problem, but only about 1 percent of it comes from the U.S. Of that 1 percent, only a tiny fraction comes from plastic straws.

How can that be? Celebrities tell us Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day. "Polluting water and killing sea life," according to actor Adrian Grenier.

The 500 million number is repeatedly used by the media. But it comes from a nine-year-old's school project. The real number is much less—closer to 175 million.

Still, radio talk show host Ethan Bearman told Tate: "If we can reduce something that is easy, that is polluting the environment, that gets stuck in turtles' noses and causes damage to the environment, let's do that." Bearman is loose with the word "easy." He argues "we could easily" replace plastic straws with paper ones or other reusable options like metal or bamboo.

When Tate told Bearman that paper straws are eight times more expensive to make, Bearman replied: "I don't see that as being a huge difference in the price."

Logomasini says: "This is what environmentalists say about every policy they put out. A few cents here, a few cents there. Eventually, it begins to be a burden." She added: "Banning straws isn't going to do anything for the environment. So what they're just trying to do is take away my freedom for nothing in return."

Tate added: "As the environment has become cleaner, that's become a specialty of the environmental movement: Spend your money on feel-good policies that make no real difference."

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The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Conchfritters||

    Would.... use paper straw, but only if Kristin Tate holds it for me.

  • Cy||

    This is our future: virtue signalling through government AKA Tyranny.

  • Modus Pwnens||

    A catheter is a type of straw.

  • Rich||

    Nice catch.

    So are kid's ear tubes, IIRC.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Will she hold it for me?

  • Joey JoJo Jr. Shabadoo||

    Kristin looks like she 'Tates' yummy.

  • Weigel's Cock Ring||

    The best evidence that we have is that somewhere between 80 and 90 percent of the plastic in the oceans is coming from major rivers in Asia, like the Yangtze and the Ganges, and that North America is only contributing about 1% of the plastic.

    So while banning plastic straws will certainly make the leftards in places like Seattle and San Francisco feel a lot better about themselves, sadly the environmental impact will be utterly negligible.

    Telling China to try polluting less takes balls and power that they simply don't have in any amount.

  • Rhywun||

    Telling China to try polluting less takes balls and power that they simply don't have in any amount.

    That Paris accord that the left was so thrilled about? In addition to crippling the US economy, it was going to allow China to continue merrily polluting away for a few more decades. The whole thing was just another exercise in signaling, but this time on a worldwide scale.

  • Echo Chamber||

    ^so much this

  • ||

    The West has a historical penchant for subsidizing "its enemies", especially the totalitarian ones, and especially when they make stuff for us.

  • colorblindkid||

    Western environmentalists are the most spoiled, naive, and dangerous people for the environment. Even the dirtiest, worst regulated mining or timber operation in America is 10X better for the environment than in third world countries with far more pristine and diverse ecosystems.

    When Western environmentalists ban all mining, timber, and gas extraction operations in their own countries, that only forces these materials to come from poorer countries with no environmental regulations, where endangered species and virgin forests are destroyed, everything is powered with super dirty coal, and then we have to ship all these things across the fucking planet, spewing out even more CO2 emissions and polluting the oceans.

  • Joey JoJo Jr. Shabadoo||

    I think putting any progressive in a position of authority has the potential to create a great deal of damage and suffering.

  • Tionico||

    and what's the problem with the "super dirty coal" other than unburned carbon particulate fallling back down to the ground near where it was burned, and all that happens OVER THERE? Carbon is plant food. It goes into the soil, then nourishes whatever is growing in the area.

    And what's the problem with carbon dioxide being released as part of any combustion/oxidation of hydrocarbon materials? WHERE did that carbon come from to become part of the fuel being used? Silly, it came from the AIR. How did it get THERE? Silly, animals exhaled it. How did it get into the animals? Silly, they ate FOOD, which is MADE of carbon and compounds made of carbon. And where did THAT carbon come from? Go back to the beginning of this circle....dintchya ever learn about the "carbon cycle" along with the "water cycle" and a few other such things? Or were you asleep when you attended the gummit skewlz way back when? If the stupid schools would teach SCIENCE then our kids would know this stuff. Since they don't, they don't, and are gullible to all this charade of "we godda SAYVE da PLANit....... NOW........ "

  • Modus Pwnens||

    And the Trump tariffs will make it worse, since all the straws China suddenly can't export to the US will be dumped into the ocean. [/reason]

  • MichaelL||

    Has to be one of the most insignificant responses that I have ever read!

  • Cynical Asshole||

    So while banning plastic straws will certainly make the leftards in places like Seattle and San Francisco feel a lot better about themselves, sadly the environmental impact will be utterly negligible.

    That seems to be the whole point of environmentalism at this point. To make relatively rich, self satisfied liberals who live in places Seattle, San Fran, and Portlandia feel good about themselves. In the first world at least, most real environmental issues have been eliminated, at least to the extent that can reasonably be expected. All that's left is feel good posturing.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Sounds like Global Warming.

  • H. Farnham||

    Have these municipalities just banned the sale of plastic straws, or is there a possession ban as well? If legal, it would be an entertaining video if someone were to go sit inside a fast food joint and just hand out plastic straws to whomever wanted one. I'd be really interested to see what reactions that might provoke from restaurant patrons.

  • Rich||

    "Hey! You with the plastic straws! How'd you like to look like that turtle!"

  • Rhywun||

    The wokest ones might burst out in tears. That would be good for a laugh.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    The wokest ones would grab the straws, throw them all over the place and then try to kill you, in keeping with their pacifist beliefs.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Kill me with a straw?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Illegal for the restaurant to supply straws.

    No private person is going to sit in a restaurant all day handing out free straws.

  • Rhywun||

    That sounds like a challenge!

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    It would be a heck of a thing to see that go city wide in Seattle. I'm sure enough volunteers could be found to have one per starbucks. Kickstarter? T-shirts? Straws?! Reason Foundation sponsorship?

  • Longtobefree||

    Bigger challenge.
    Go into a Starbucks with a big box of plastic straws from the store.
    Noisily and ostentatiously throw the whole box into the trashcan.
    Start a video recording of the reactions.
    Post the video and get rich.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    I would totally do that. Even if it's just to be a dick.

  • Rich||

    Very well. *Sell* them!

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Penny apiece?

  • Microaggressor||

    Now you're just asking for another Eric Garner incident.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Well turtles probably can't breathe too well either with a plastic straw up their nose. Will no one think of the turtle children?

  • Rhywun||

    All that coke just plugs up their nostrils.

  • Rich||

    what they're just trying to do is take away my freedom for nothing in return.

    HATE SPEECH!

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Freedom?! That is worship word!

  • Set Us Up The Chipper||

    E. Plebnista or something.

  • croaker||

    Ban a straw, go to jail.

  • seadog7616||

    I weep for your lost freedom.

    But moreso, the diminished sucking potential of future American generations, who will never know the sweet embrace of cold high fructose corn syrup delivered to their bellies via industrial chemical compounds.

    First they came for our straws, and I said nothing... Fight the good fight, brethren. For yours is a holy and righteous cause in the Lords merciful eyes.

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    How about that meaningless garbage use of words like "industrial chemical compounds". Does that invoke the necessary imagery and reponse that your propaganda requires?

  • seadog7616||

    Yes it does thanks for asking. Have a great day.

  • sarcasmic||

    I went to a Seadogs game once. Not much of a hockey fan.

  • ||

    You can admit it, there was nothing else to do on a Wednesday in Saint John.

  • Microaggressor||

    When plastic straws are outlawed, only outlaws will have plastic straws.

  • Johnimo||

    I'm going to take plastic straws with me whenever I visit one of the straw-free zones, where I will conspicuously pull out a straw whenever I'm sipping a straw-appropriate drink. Oh, the humanity!

  • Violent Sociopath||

    The bullshit rationalization of vicious authoritarian asswipes everywhere: "You're delusional if you think this is a non-trivial imposition on liberty."

    Why is it bullshit? Because it's never just this one thing. It's straws. It's plastic grocery bags. It's toilets. It's lightbulbs. It's washing machines. It's hundreds of other little inconveniences that smug, stupid cunts like you are never, ever satisfied with; there's always the next crusade against modernity and convenience.

    Go eat a bag of deep-fried dicks, you worthless piece of human trash.

  • seadog7616||

    Wouldn't a lightly steamed bag of dicks have the same efficacy? Why cook dicks in the first place?

    I assume you must have a perfectly good reason for keeping so many dicks around you. Only your Tinder profile knows for sure, amirite???

    Good fun, good fun! Have a great one friend.

  • Violent Sociopath||

    Oh, look, the submoronic authoritarian cunt wants a second horsewhipping.

  • Echo Chamber||

    First they come for your straws.
    Wework bans meat

    "New research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact, even more than switching to a hybrid car," he added.

  • Rich||

    even more than switching to a hybrid car

    But not as much as offing xiself.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    "New research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact, even more than switching to a hybrid car," he added.

    *facepalm*

    Reminds of a Ron White joke, talking about his friend who became a vegetarian for environmentalist reasons:

    "'Cows are destroying the planet what with their cow flatulence. What are you doing to help the environment, Ron?'
    I'm eatin' the cow... But I'm only one man!"

  • Microaggressor||

    Based on its projected employee and member growth over the next five years, WeWork estimated the elimination of meat at company events could save 16.6 billion gallons of water, 445.1 million pounds of CO2 emissions and just over 15.5 million animals by 2023.

    I guess they didn't factor in their calculations the majority of their clients leaving.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    I really like Stossel's new makeover!
    I would never have recognized him.

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    *xer

  • sarcasmic||

    It is amazing how different someone looks after they shave. And change their eye color. And get a sex change. And become decades younger.

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    OK, I finally get the Trans thing.
    If I could get results like that? I'd spend all day staring in the mirror, naked.

  • Joey JoJo Jr. Shabadoo||

    Well, Doctor Who regenerated into a woman at Christmas, I suppose it was Stossel's turn.

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    I think we've had all the straw jokes now but i just wanted to add: verily fuck the misinformed opinion of those idiot celebrities, and their feel good, do nothing bullshit sandwich of garbage. I will not eat it.

  • sarcasmic||

    A town around here just banned plastic bags. Makes me snicker a bit. I remember when the rage was to use plastic instead of paper in order to save the trees. Now, in this town anyway, it is literally a crime for stores to put your groceries into plastic bags. Makes me wonder what the rage will be in another twenty years.

  • Rich||

    "Ban whalebone corsets!"

  • Joey JoJo Jr. Shabadoo||

    Ban groceries altogether in some grand Malthusian undertaking. Isn't socialism wonderful?

  • Ron||

    I need straws so that i don't accidentally choke to death when i get an ice cube stuck in my throat

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    Maybe you'll be able to get a permit for the medical use of straws.

  • Ron||

    I can see it now I'll need an id to us a straw but not to vote. makes sense

  • sarcasmic||

    Looked at some of her YouTube videos, like the creeper that I am. She stammers a lot. Then again so did Stossel, but he got over it.

    She's got libertarian 101 down. Which is good. She's got a leg up on lc1789 and John, and is more attractive.

    And she wrote a book too. Good for her. I hope to see more over her. And no that doesn't mean sans clothing. Creepers.

    We need more libertarian women.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    I hope to see more over her. And no that doesn't mean sans clothing. Creepers.

    I for one certainly wouldn't complain though.

    TIWTANFL

  • ||

    We need more libertarian women.

    I wouldn't even go that far. While I'm not going to lie and say I wouldn't prefer to have Kristin attracting people to the libertarian cause, I'd be fine/agreeable/supportive if Angela Logomasini started a 'libertarian-leaning objectivist' party.

    'More libertarian women' sounds like an invitation to more feminists who think women should be empowered and bakers should bake gay wedding cakes. Not that either one of those exactly runs against libertarian ideals as much as the brand is pretty dilute and more and more diverse people aren't fixing the dilution.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Yes, celebutards, please stop sucking.

  • Longtobefree||

    Well, #metoo pretty much put a stop to that - - - - - - - -

  • Eddy||

    They'll lay low until the coast is clear, then they'll need another scandal to make them cut it out.

  • Longtobefree||

    Wait. I think John is trying to get me to pay more attention to facts than to a nine year old kid's bad math and the rantings of someone who accidentally made a bunch of money despite being stupid enough to live in California.
    But that requires reading, thinking, and independent analysis.
    Not to mention ignoring social media entirely.

  • Heraclitus||

    An outright ban seems a bit over-the-top, however, the converse, that this makes no difference is equally stupid. Fact, when you use a straw and throw it away you are producing plastic waste. Fact, 90% of the time you drink you can do so without a straw. It's as if people are complaining that they have a right to have to avoid lifting their cups 6 inches higher in the air to deliver a liquid at an appropriate angle. While a legal ban may be going too far it is not too much to say that creating a moral imperative may have its merits.

    And btw, this is classic rhetorical trickery. No one is saying the ban is going to solve all problems or something like that. That's like saying you should not study for your test because that one test will not make or break your career. You can say that about every test or challenge and soon you are going no where.

  • Rhywun||

    Look at the numbers in the article. The "difference" is statistically irrelevant. And you are aware of slippery slopes, right? Imagine all the other conveniences you don't really need. How much plastic is in your TV? Your car?

  • Pro Libertate||

    I imagine that the 200 million figure (or even FIVE HUNDRED MILLION) mostly end up in dumps. I suppose rats in dumps may be harmed by straws.

    Straws are a strawman for cranking up the "environmental" votes on the left, because the rest of us are going mock the heck out of these uncritical, uninformed people. I think it's high time to stop paying any attention at all to this sort of nonsense.

  • Johnimo||

    At my house, we use plastic straws. Then, we clean them with soap and hot water and reuse them. Then, we sometimes rinse them out with water and re-reuse them. My wife has some really big (inside diameter) straws that she uses for her health drinks, and boy, oh boy, she gets really pissed if I discard one by accident.

    I'll give up my plastic straws when they pry them from between my cold, stiff, rigor mortised, dead, fucking lips.

  • Violent Sociopath||

    It's as if people are complaining that they have a right to have to avoid lifting their cups 6 inches higher in the air to deliver a liquid at an appropriate angle.

    I do in fact have a right to avoid lifting my cups 6 inches higher in the air to deliver a liquid at an appropriate angle. Go fuck yourself.

    While a legal ban may be going too far it is not too much to say that creating a moral imperative may have its merits.

    There is no moral imperative to sacrifice modernity and convenience to achieve negligible environmental gains. Go fuck yourself.

  • Johnimo||

    Yes, my sentiments EXACTLY: "Go fuck yourselves."

  • ||

    OT: Is there some manner of blackout on police shooting stories from Chicago? The Harith Augustus (spoiler alert: the black guy doesn't make it) story seems kinda big and right up Reason's alley.

  • Weigel's Cock Ring||

    Also, not only is Kristin Tate a 9 out of 10, you know she's also a real libertarian because she has been vetted by John Stossel. Wow!!

    If Reason was still a genuine libertarian outfit they'd be hiring her and women like her. Instead, we get laughable complete frauds like Elizabeth Nolan Brown, and pathetic, embarrassing disclaimers such as this one:

    The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Kristin Tate has a face for video. Not print.

  • ||

    Where's Stossel :(

  • Eddy||

    That's his real appearance, his previous appearance was due to very clever computer graphics.

  • Eddy||

    That picture of the lady with the straws prompts this joke: (deleted)

  • An Owl Named Dur||

    Despite experience, I'm still somewhat surprised and disappointed when I see obviously ridiculous statistics like this used and accepted. It's obviously bullshit on its face. To be true, on average, every man, woman [insert preferred gender here] would have to use more than plastic 1.6 straws a day, every single day. This includes infants, the infirm, the demented, inmates, the homeless, etc, etc. if true, the straw manufacturers would have to produce 1.83 billion straws, per year, just to meet US demand. This is manifestly horseshit. And, not to be outdone, the mathematical geniuses at the BBC report that in the U.K., 8.5 billion (yes, BILLION) straws are consumed each year.

    https://tinyurl.com/yako5scg

    How staggeringly innumerate does one have be to look at that number and not burst out laughing? Why not a trillion? Or even a quadrillion, since we're just pulling numbers out of ass now.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Banning straws isn't going to do anything for the environment. So what they're just trying to do is take away my freedom for nothing in return

    You can stop there.

  • ColoradoKook||

    Why are all these Hollywood types so homophobic? If someone wants to suck, let them suck.

  • Dennis Bergendorf||

    Following the Tylenol tampering, there were calls to put safety seals on all cans and bottles. Many of my fellow conservatives said the cost to the consumer would be astronomical. Now it's done for a penny or two per bottle and a fraction of a cent per pharmaceutical capsule.

  • Johnimo||

    So, Dennis, are we to assume you support the banning of plastic straws. Come on! You can tell us.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    It is expensive virtue signalling all the way down.

    Mounting objective evidence (you know, those sciencey facts that progressives claim to monopolize) suggests that residential recycling is not only a waste of money but has a negative environmental impact. With the significant exception of aluminum, the other discarded paper and plastic has overwhelmed the demand. Buyers like China (yes, mega-tons of garbage go on trans-oceanic cruises) have rejected paper due to contamination. Where I live, that means the "recycled" paper goes through expensive separation and shipping to accumulate in warehouses (and, some suspect, dumps) in the neighboring state. I did a quick series of calculations, and my cash-starved city would save money (and the local population would have reduced environmental impact) if we gave up recycling. But I cannot imagine the locals, greenies and just feel-gooders, ever accepting that.

  • sarcasmic||

    If recycling made economic sense, the market would pay for it. The fact that it is funded by tax dollars is the only necessary proof needed that it's an economic loser.

  • Johnimo||

    I have some friends who pay to have $omeone come pick up their recycling stuff. It puts me in $titches just laughing and thinking about this guy, who undoubtedly just dumps most of it in the trash, on his way to the bank to deposit the money they pay him.

  • XM||

    You probably cannot drink boba or the (ubiquitous in LA and OC) slush drinks with a jumbo sized paper. Most Asians will not tolerate having to drink their milk teas with no straws. I just don't see that happening.

    Most fountain drink in restaurants come in a tall glass without a handle. For a thought experiment, try to take that to your mouth every time you want to drink instead of sipping it from a straw, which most people do instinctively. You're going to feel the difference. And you'll notice a thin layer of grease on top of the drink.

    Also, women wear lipsticks. And some of them don't want something like ice coffee to constantly come in contact with their teeth. You can forget about drinking anything while driving without a straw - although you could use your own supply.

  • Rockabilly||

    I hand out free plastic straws in the Panhandle.

  • Johnimo||

    Texas, Florida, Alaska or Oklahoma? Or, is there another "panhandle" with which I'm unfamiliar? I didn't know this was necessary, 'cause I'm pretty sure the folks in Panama City, Dumas, Juneau, and Boise City will be the last to ban plastic straws.

  • PaulTheBeav||

    Good job not-John-Stossel.

  • ||

    Party and people of science. They fucking love science.

    Why do you need proof and evidence that banning plastic straws is probably the most idiotic environmental idea from progressives yet?

  • ||

    "...a little gentle guiding hand from government."

    /vomits.

  • BrianB||

    I don't think many people really care about the environment, I think they just want to see themselves as someone who does because it makes them feel better about themselves. So they're kind of immune to facts that may contradict what they want to think.

  • jjjjj||

    Meanwhile, birth control pills have actually been proven to have negative environment impact, but you won't find the libs fighting to stop that.

  • Pat001||

    I make authentic chocolate malteds using an antique Hamilton Beech malt mixer. It is awkward trying to drink a thick malt from a glass. Besides, malts taste better thru a straw. IMHO.

  • Johnimo||

    I love plastic straws, especially for young children, notorious for spilling drinks all over the floors and carpets. With a plastic lid and a straw, the spills are almost nonexistent.

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