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Plastic Straws Have Become

Plastic straws have become an important part of today’s society and for this reason, these hollow, thin plastics are often taken for granted. The movement to ban straws focuses on plastic pollution and how it negatively affects the environment and our species. Plastics have become a huge part of everyday life as it has helped innovate today’s society. However, the obsession and infatuation people have for plastics has led to disastrous consequences. Due to this, banning plastic straws has become an important and progressing issue. Despite this issue has not become a definite policy, it has made changes in some states, as they have taken initiative to pass legislations in order to try to prevent single use of plastics. This developing movement not only focuses on banning of plastic straws itself, but also banning single use plastics.

Unit One: Federalism, Freedom vs. Security

The movement to ban straws is mostly a state issue. Straw bans are being taken by individual cities, businesses, and states around the country and the world. States are working towards passing legislations that prevent restaurants from providing customers with straws upon request. This campaign is not only happening in the United States, but all around the world. According to Boston’s Radio News Station, “In the U.S. and Canada, the bans are being taken up by individual cities, like Malibu, California, and Vancouver, British Columbia”(“Americans Throw Out Millions Of Plastic Straws Daily. Here’s What’s Being Done About It.”). Some cities such as San Francisco have begun to ban straws and legislations are being passed to prohibit full service dining restaurants from voluntarily providing straws to customers. This campaign also addresses the balance between freedom and security as it affects the consumer’s freedom in order to protect the environment. Banning straws prevents people from utilizing a straw for hygiene or convenience purposes in order ensure a healthy environment. In cities such as San Francisco, consumers must give up the freedom to use a straw so that the environment can be more secure and protected, which has cultivated controversy.

Unit 2: Linkage Institutions

When examining the different contentions about banning straws, such linkage institutions like public online polls, media coverage, campaigning were all involved. An online poll conducted by a political website, The Hill, “surveyed 2,000 adults nationwide from August 14-16, found, however, that respondents were less supportive of government intervention on straw use”(Green). The online poll collected data that 48 percent of the respondents supported local band on plastic straws, while 42 percent opposed (Green). Among the division that supported local bans, 56 percent of the voters were Democrats and 41 percent were Republicans (Green). This data shows that most people do not want the government to be involved with the movement and they rather have the straws be banned from the local to statewide bans. Another online poll was taken by Morning Consult, a market researcher company, where they surveyed whether the public believed that banning straws was ineffective or effective. Although large corporations such as Starbucks and Walt Disney are beginning to phase out the use of plastic straws, about half of the consumers said that they do not believe businesses are doing enough to reduce plastic waste. Whereas, the poll conducted that “66% said they would have a more favorable view of a company that has a new recycling policy to reduce plastics”(Sabin). A company that takes initiative and begins to reduce their plastic waste, will have a more favorable impression. The Morning Consult also conducted that about 58 percent of the consumers believed that banning straws would become effective in reducing plastic debris (Sabin). Overall, the polls conducted that the public does not think that campaigns and corporations are doing enough to reduce plastic waste, but do believe that eliminating plastic straws will help cut waste. Through the data collected, the campaign about plastic straws is not progressing as quickly due to factors such as the inconsistent cover stories.

Media covers many different reports on the events and the public opinion of banning plastic straws which has been covered through television, radio, magazines, newspapers, and the internet. Although media keeps the people informed, there are also many forms of media bias, such as selective sources and prejudice vocabulary. Media bias is often used when talking about the controversial opinions of the public on banning straws, as the ban of straws generates both support and controversy. While cities and states are banning plastic straws, others are evading plastic straws. One stance of the movement addresses that banning straws is necessary to prevent plastic pollution, while another stance argues that bans are unnecessary and detrimental to businesses. In Sarah Gibbons’s article, “A Brief History of How Plastic Straws took over the world”, she claims that plastic straws are one of the factors on why the world is trying to recover from plastic pollution (Gibbons). She also talks about the different businesses and large corporations joining the effort to respond to the “ public outcry demanding action against a product that, on one hand, seems very simple—but which is harming the world’s oceans, experts warn”(Gibbons). Through her claims against plastics, she states that straws are something one can easily do without and how it does not require a huge change. Unlike Gibbons, the writer, Juliana Britto, of “The Problem with Banning Plastic Straws” talks about how the movement of straws dismisses the true objective of straws (Britto). Britto states that people with disabilities argue that plastic straws are not just plastic substances, but they have an important purpose. When Gibbons uses bias as she describes the situation affecting the public as if there was an “outcry”, it appears to be exaggerated after reading Britto’s article about the “problem” with the campaign. In both Britto’s and Gibbons’s articles, media bias is used as both the authors wrote about the same topic, but selectively choose different ways of covering the topic. News media and interest groups also practice narrowcasting, by disseminating certain information to different groups of individuals. In the Daily Caller, a conservative news and opinion website, Jason Hopkins writes in his article, “Disabled People are Decrying the Plastic Straw Ban”, about how banning plastic straws do “not explicitly factor in disability access”(Hopkins). On the other hand, a liberal blog website called Natural News, also addresses the straw ban, but does not disclose the complications with the disabled community. Instead Edsel Cook argues about the toxic plastics itself and how billions of plastic straws wash up on the shores of the beaches as “straws are just one of the numerous types of plastic trash that clog our seas”(Cook). The effects of narrowcasting makes the public aservative about their opinion on this debatable issue.

Campaigning about the plastic pollution is to bring upon public awareness and action. A new conservation campaign branded as “No Straw November” has made November the month of not using straws (Howard). Led by the Aquarium Conservation Partnership, the campaign to not use straws encourages businesses to use fewer straws by only serving straws upon request. They are also “lobbying cities and regional governments to pass ordinances” to persuade businesses to promote an eco-friendly portrayal (Howard). Last year, the campaign was able to eliminate the use of 5 million straws. The Aquarium Conservation Partnership is currently partnering with other committees to promote a larger campaign against plastic waste (Howard). Campaigning has not only influences the public and businesses, it has also influenced states to take action and pass legislations.2

Unit 3: Influence of the Branches of Government

States have passed laws regarding the movement to ban straws. California is the first state to place a partial ban on plastic straws (Hilary). Governor Jerry Brown signed the law of Assembly Bill 1884 that “prohibit[s] a full-service restaurant, as specified, from providing single-use plastic straws, as defined, to consumers unless requested by the consumer”(Calderon and Bloom). In California, restaurants are not allowed to voluntarily provide straws to their customers. Customers can only ask for straws or they have the option to order their drinks to go in order to go to receive a straw. If restaurants violate this law, “businesses would receive a warning for their first two violations, then a $25 fine per day for each subsequent violation, up to $300 annually”(Koseff). The Assembly Bill of 1884 was to bring awareness on the negative effect single plastic items have on the environment.

Although there are not many court cases on the ban of plastics, there are several court cases about single use plastics, such as plastic bags. A plastic conflict about the Laredo plastic bag ban in Texas was brought attention in the State Supreme Court. The “Texas’ Fourth District Court of Appeals had initially struck down a plastic bag ban enacted by Laredo in 2014” because they argued that the plastic bag ban was intended for an appearance rather than a waste effort (“Plastic Bag Preemption Conflicts between State and Local Governments”). The court also overruled that the ban “violated the state prohibition on local regulation on solid waste management”(“Plastic Bag Preemption Conflicts between State and Local Governments”). Laredo ended up pleading the court’s ruling to the Texas Supreme Court and justices ruled unanimously that the local ordinance had indeed contrasted with the Solid Waste Disposal Act (Platoff). The court’s unanimous decision to reject Laredo was to resolve the legal question of plastic waste, however this decision threatens other city bans across the state. The court strike at the Laredo ban has brought upon the argument that plastics are not intended to be solid waste and that the ban does not impose the the Solid Waste Disposal Act(Platoff). The different opinions and stances on this issue makes the campaign to ban straws a contentious situation.

Stances on Policy

There are many stances that are against and for the banning of plastic straws. Those who oppose the ban, such as the disability community, are advocating against the plastic straw ban. Many disabled argue that the campaign to prohibit straws has not received a fair and adequate input from the disabled community (Martinez). Many are concerned about the straw ban because it does not take their daily life experience into consideration. Disabilities rely on straws in order “to consume food and drinks”(Martinez). Although the disability community is aware and understands the negative environmental concerns of the plastic straws, they believe that the campaign should “accommodate and value disables customers”(Martinez). Those who support the ban claim that reducing plastic straws does not need to come at the expense of the disability and that there are other alternatives. However, some of those who are disabled, have slower motor skills and may take longer than the average person to drink or consume something, that is why alternatives such as biodegradable or paper straws are not an option. While campaigns label straws as unessential and easy to live without, they ignore those such as the disability community who depend on them. Disabilities feel that they are unable to effectively participate and claim that the campaigning is “an issue of equality”(Goad). However, those who support the campaign address such arguments by claiming that the campaigns objective is not anti-straws, but anti-pollution.

Environmentalists claim that the movement is about the larger effect to reduce the harmful and single use plastics in the oceans (Schwartz). Places such as San Francisco provide plastic straws only upon request, which “will make a massive dent in the amount of plastic waste restaurants produce”(Schwartz). Because this new legislation does not entirely ban straws, other stances include those who claim that banning plastic has been a movement that has been going on for years and the laws and policies are not solving the problem of plastic waste polluting the ocean. A blog about why banning plastics harm the environment and the consumers, talks about how the campaign “diverts attention away from the real solutions, and instead harms both consumers and the environment”(Celdotorg). This stance includes those who believe that the majority of the plastic waste is not from the consumers, but fishnets. Celdotorg claims that “studies show the vast majority of plastic waste is due to poor disposal practices outside of the United State.” Many believe that plastic waste movements such as banning straws divert the attention from improving problems like the quality of waste management around the world.

While critics claim that the banning straws is an ineffective campaign, others argue that the ban is an economical ban as it increases the cost for businesses and consumers (Ceidetorg). Some businesses do not want to invest in paper straws because they are more expensive than plastic straws. Also, copycat companies that create paper straws also make an unfortunate representation on paper straws because the straws become soggy and fall apart. As a result, the demand for plastic straws increase as the bans for plastic straws multiply. For example, tapioca tea shops have a difficult time selling with paper straws. Because of this, a Californian Republican lawmaker opposes the ban as “it would burden small businesses and do little to fight the larger plastic pollution crisis.” Bans on plastic straws has provoked dispute among people who oppose and reinforce the issue.

Personal Stance

My personal stance on this issue is that although I support the campaign, I would like to see changes in the way the campaign is promoted. I agree with environmentalists that plastic straws are something people submissively utilize everyday and that it plays a role in the plastic waste production. Despite the fact that I believe that banning plastic straws will not solve the plastic pollution problem in the environment, I think that the movement to ban plastic straws advocates for the ban of all single used plastics, which makes it a significant and growing movement. I do agree with the stance that the movement to ban plastic straws is not progressing as quickly because many people are unaware about the current climate situation or feel like straws are only a small percentage of the plastic waste and as a result, organizations in the plastic industry, “haven’t fought the laws with the same vigor they used to oppose bag bans”(Victor). Cutting the use of plastic straws can significantly change the environment’s behavior and giving up a straw is a small step towards a larger project, such as the plastic bag ban. Another reason is because of the ineffectiveness in the inconveniences of the plastic straw alternatives. For example, paper straws are more expensive and fall apart quickly fall apart. Due to this, I believe that the disability community should be more included in the campaign and that their opinions should be heard as well as taken into consideration. I believe that straws should continue to be available for those who actually need them. Plastics are a massive problem in today’s society, but saving a plastic straw by using an alternative or not using a straw yields to a large impact for the ocean and the environment.

Freelance Writer

I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.