Plastic straws shouldn’t be banned

Limiting Straw options causes more harm than good


Sharee Roman

Plastic straws cost 5 times less than compostables, part of why junior Ellie Hope questions a ban.

Andrew Johnson, The Rubicon Editor

Recently, the use of plastic straws has been a hotly contested topic among environmentalists and concerned Americans. In the spirit of eliminating waste, plastic straws appeared to be a way to further the cause: straws aren’t essential to the dining experience, and by banning them, oceans, streets, and general society would theoretically benefit. The cause of improving the environment is an easy one to get behind, but beneath the surface, restricting plastic straws from the American public does more harm than good.

First and foremost, the source of how many straws Americans used per day is, simply put, unreliable. According to the New York Times, the frequently-cited figure that 500 million straws are used every day in America comes from “a survey conducted by a 9 year old” in 2011. Objectively, this is problematic. Even if true, the fact that data used as reasoning to remove such a heavily-used piece of the dining experience comes from a child yet to reach the fifth grade is a major red flag. Instead, a more accurate figure would be that Americans use roughly 390 million straws a day, as reported by, the Freedonia Group. Not only is the number of straws used significantly smaller than the previous inaccurate number, but the fact that Americans are being misled by faulty numbers undermines the integrity of the argument to remove straws in the first place. Starting the conversation of protecting the environment is important, but starting it strong by attacking a major pollutant instead of a minor one is the right first step, so instead, attention should be focused on getting rid of bottle caps. As reported by NPR, straws account for roughly 7 percent of plastics in America per unit. By comparison, bottle caps make up more than 17 percent making straws a far inferior pollutant by weight, according to NPR.

If everywhere had reusable straws that would be much more expensive and… just wasteful

— Ellie Hoppe

Furthermore, the proposed replacement of plastic straws is not viable. According to the New York Post, the more environment-friendly replacement straw made from plant-based materials take “forever” to decompose. Once they inevitably enter the ocean, they are “just as likely” to be harmful to sea animals and plant life as regular straws. The straws would have a paper-like texture, which would become soggy, resulting in the average user using more than one per sitting. Even though paper is a renewable source, the amount of time needed to make up for the amount of trees that would be inevitably lost would be unproportional. Environmentalists should not try to fix one environmental problem by furthering another.

Moreover, outlawing straws would take them away from people who rely on them, like disabled people. Some disabilities force Americans to use straws to drink, and without them, they cannot do so. By not considering disabled people, advocates for banning straws lose credibility and add yet another reason why straws should be here to stay.

There is room for change. The anti-straw movement is picking up steam, but it is up to able-bodied people to make sure straws are available to all who need them. Talk to friends, representatives, and environmentalists. Refocus the passion for change towards a more environmentally detrimental material, such as bottle caps. Otherwise, they may be gone before it’s too late.