Straws not the villain they are made out to be

By Laurel Schmidt


The simple act of neglecting straws will not save the environment as many may think.
Illustration by Emily Choi.

Every time I reach for a straw after getting my coffee I am practically harrassed by my friends for ‘ruining the environment’. Just a few months ago straws were thrown around as if they were causing no harm, and now restaurants and establishments throughout the country are stopping or limiting their distribution of straws.

Straws are not beneficial for the Earth; in fact, the list of ways that plastic ruins our environment never ends. It emits carbon dioxide, pollutes groundwater, does not biodegrade, contains harsh chemicals and much more, according to Plastic Pollution Coalition.

This being said, straws only make up a miniscule percentage of the total plastic discarded everyday, and people need to start looking at the bigger picture, beyond just straws. According to National Geographic, 8 million tons of plastic flow into the ocean every year and straws make up only 0.025 percent of that.

The most notable ban of straws was in Starbucks, which vowed to completely remove them from its stores by 2020, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. Following Starbucks, many other organizations and even cities began banning plastic straws and cutlery.

Additionally, Seattle and San Francisco were two of the first cities to ban the use of plastic straws altogether through legislation, according to CBS News.

Though this is a step in the right direction in terms of combating climate change, the bans should not stop here. In fact, the original purpose of the straw-ban movement was to use straws as a “gateway” to get people to feel like environmentalists, and therefore be more willing to perform larger tasks in the future to help combat climate change, according to NPR.

“A lot of social psychology research says that if you get people to say yes to a small request, they are more likely to accede to more serious requests,” psychologist Robert Gifford said.

While this may end up becoming true eventually, at the moment all of the focus seems to be on straws, with only small movement away from it. While the straw ban is not a bad movement, it is too small of a step. People need to start being more ambitious, instead of thinking that they are saving the environment by the simple act of neglecting straws.

Instead of simply sticking to banning plastic straws, people should begin to look beyond the straws, and back to plastic as a whole, or even better, back to climate change as a whole.