California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

    Plastic Straw Ban: We Can Do Better for Earth

    The whales are dying. The turtles are drowning. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch will soon consume the planet. It’s cool, hip and trendy to blame almost everything bad about plastic on our longtime friend, the plastic straw. But seriously, is declaring war on the plastic straw the best we can do in addressing the plastics issue?

    Starbucks has made the plastic straw the poster child for ‘bad boy’ plastic and has become a corporate champion for the anti-plastic straw movement. Starbucks claims to want to do what is right for the environment, but is that the real motivation behind their claims? Well-intentioned individuals and organizations have picked up the call to action and organized against the plastic straw with a “kill the beast” mentality.

    Other businesses have been joining the plastic straw ban in efforts to reduce the amount of single-use plastic ending up in our oceans. But if all of the plastic straws that are claimed to be used every day and those rolling around in the environment were all dumped into the oceans, according to Bloomberg News, they would still only make up less than 0.03 percent of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic estimated to enter the oceans each year.

    The Ocean Conservancy’s 2017 Coastal Cleanup Report found that the most common trash items found on beaches were cigarettes, plastic bottles, bottle caps, wrappers and bags. Straws and stirrers were also on the list, making up three percent of the total trash. Nearly 50 percent of the plastics in the ocean are fishing nets and fishing gear.

    The movement to discontinue distributing plastic straws has been sweeping the country, finding widespread attention after Starbucks announced they would be banning all plastic straws completely by the year 2020.

    In Santa Barbara, distributing plastic straws can result in a fine of $1,000, as well as up to six months jail time.

    “I think this ban is completely ridiculous and scary. It underlines a much bigger problem, which is citizens and the government think they can just ban whatever they don’t like,” said Steven Fitzgerald, a regular Starbucks patron. “If the government and society can just ban things they deem as ‘not good’, what is stopping them from other things that are polluting our environment like bottle caps, cigarette butts, alcohol, balloons or all plastic in general?”

    The straw ban is not only inconvenient, but also making things hard for some people with disabilities who rely on plastic bendy straws. Many can’t drink out of a standard cup or take advantage of the new “sippy cups” because of their impairments. It’s true that there are alternatives, such as reusable straws or compostable products. However, reusable straws can be difficult to maintain and sterilize. Compostable products, on the other hand, easily dissolve in hot liquids and also present choking and allergen hazards. Eliminating straws entirely seems a disservice to the elderly, people with diabilities and customers with teeth sensitivity.

    Cal Lutheran student and president of the Oceans Outreach club Valerie Krepel, says there are steps we can all take which can actually make a huge difference. And all it takes is simply paying attention.

    “I think something that can extremely benefit our environment is being conscientious about what we use and what we throw out. Part of the reason that beaches are so littered is because people will bring food, the wind will blow the trash away and people will think ‘Oh that’s too bad.’ People need to be aware and take responsibility of their own trash,” Krepel said.

    People are missing the bigger picture. I understand it’s the initiative of trying to help our planet, but why put a huge inconvenience on people when there are bigger problems we can address?  Straws are nothing, compared to other plastics like water bottles. Why don’t we as a society work together to stop polluting our environment and find ways to help our planet, instead of banning everything that is deemed as harmful? Banning straws is an ineffective response to a serious problem.

    We are taught to think critically at Cal Lutheran. I think we should look behind the curtain of the plastic straw initiative and question the motivations of many corporations and businesses.

    I agree that it is an important topic for discussion, especially in an age where there are open debates about science and the impact human actions have on our future. I don’t agree that banning plastic straws will solve the problem.  Perhaps Starbucks could invest more of their profits into expanding the battle into something more meaningful than just the plastic straw. Perhaps the company could lead the real war on plastics.

    Karley Cable