Starbucks, Disney parks, and the European Union all have single-use plastic straw bans in the works, Vox reports. While straws only amount to about 0.03 percent of total plastic waste by mass, campaigns against straws are really about putting a “face” on the broader issue of single-use plastic pollution.
“Our straw campaign is not really about straws,” said Dune Ives, the executive director of Lonely Whale, the organization that led the straw ban movement in Seattle. “It’s about pointing out how prevalent single-use plastics are in our lives, putting up a mirror to hold us accountable. We’ve all been asleep at the wheel.”
There is concern about the availability of straws for people who need them.
There are many alternatives to plastic straws — paper, biodegradable plastics and even reusable straws made from metal or silicone. But paper straws and similar biodegradable options often fall apart too quickly or are easy for people with limited jaw control to bite through. Silicone straws are often not flexible — one of the most important features for people with mobility challenges. Reusable straws need to be washed, which not all people with disabilities can do easily. And metal straws, which conduct heat and cold in addition to being hard and inflexible, can pose a safety risk.
Bet you didn’t know that the history of the disposable plastic straw is really the history of capitalism.