Small and lightweight, straws often never make it into recycling bins; the evidence of this failure is clearly visible on any beach. And although straws amount to a tiny fraction of ocean plastic, their size makes them one of the most insidious polluters because they entangle marine animals and are consumed by fish. Video of scientists removing a straw embedded in a sea turtle’s nose went viral in 2015.
The plastics industry opposes bans at every turn. Bag manufacturers have persuaded lawmakers in Florida, Missouri, Idaho, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Indiana to pass legislation outlawing the bag bans.
Keith Christman, managing director for plastic markets for the American Chemistry Council, says the industry also will oppose any efforts to outlaw plastic straws.
Bans of individual products often come with “unintended consequences,” Christman argues. Replacement products can cause more environmental harm than plastic products there were banned, he says. In some cases, products advertised as biodegradable sometimes turn out not to be. Worse, consumer behavior sometimes changes. When San Francisco banned Styrofoam products, he says, an audit of litter showed that while Styrofoam cup litter dropped, paper cup litter increased.
“What we really need is good waste management structure in countries that are the largest source of this challenge,” he says. “Rapidly developing countries in Asia don’t have that structure.”
What sets the anti-straw campaign apart from other efforts—and why the anti-straw campaign may succeed—is that activists are not seeking to change laws or regulations. They are merely asking consumers to change their habits and say no to straws.
Many marine animals use echolocation to locate food or to communicate. However, sonar, and other man-made machines are causing distress to these animals.
- Is it more important to protect the animals or is it necessary to use these machines for human progress?