Are Plastic Straws A Big Deal?
With a rising interest in action against plastic pollution, plastic straws have received a lot of attention. They’ve been a focus in the media as corporations, restaurant chains and cafe outlets have pledged to ban or phase them out completely.
But are straws a big deal? Not really. It’s estimated that if all straws around the world’s coastlines were lost to the ocean, this would account for approximately 0.03 percent of ocean plastics. A global ban on their use could therefore achieve a maximum of a 0.03 percent reduction. Why have straws in particular received so much attention? Probably because:
(a) for most people (not all — some people struggle to drink without one), straws are unnecessary; and
(b) it’s a quick and low-risk step for businesses to be seen to be taking active steps in addressing this issue.
Reducing plastic straw use is — for the most part — not a bad thing to do. It can reduce plastic use a little. If this is a first step towards large-scale commitments to tackling plastic consumption, then it’s a useful contribution. But as the late David MacKay noted: “If we all do a little, we’ll only achieve a little”. We must do a lot; we must tackle the high-impact options that will make a difference at the global level.
As some have highlighted: other sources of plastic pollution — such as discards of fishing nets and lines (which contributed to more than half of plastics in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch) receive significantly less attention. With effective waste management systems across the world, mismanaged plastics at risk of entering the ocean could decline by more than 80 percent. If we focus all of our energy on contributions of negligible size, we risk diverting our focus away from the large-scale contributions we need.
Nara Loca Abadi is a recycled plastic specialist that concerned about the earth and environment by promoting the use of recycled PET flakes, recycled PET chips, recycled PP & HDPE granules to various plastic and polyester manufacturers.