Dee Durham is co-chair and co-founder of PlasticFreeDelaware.org
In response to the recent USA Today editorial on plastic straws, comparing the “menace of plastic straws” to plastic guns or the soda tax is really not the point. That’s apples to oranges.
The question isn’t “which is worse,” but rather “let’s work together to improve human health and the environment.”
Despite what the recent USA Today OpEd implies, plastic straws cannot be recycled, so 100 percent of them end up in the land fill, or worse, in the environment.
During Delaware’s Coastal Cleanup – which is just three hours annually on Delaware’s shorelines – an average of 2,000 plastic straws are found. Extrapolate from that the number of straws which do not get picked up and end up on our beaches and in our marine environments, where they are ingested and harm or kill wildlife — or, sadly, in our landfills to sit for thousands of years because they are not biodegradable. Beach clean ups are not the solution.
USA Today editorial board: Plastic straws ban is quite a straw man
Do you use a straw at home to drink water or soda or lemonade? If not, then you likely do not need one when you dine out.
If you are one of the 10 percent or so of the U.S. population that does need or prefer a plastic straw, for medical or cosmetic reasons, there is not guarantee now that any restaurant will have the exact kind of straw you need or prefer, so chances are you already bring your own if it is a vital component of your meals. And all straw legislation passed so far includes the ability to request a straw by any person who may need or prefer it.
Education of the public only goes so far. Witness the mountains of trash lining Delaware’s roadways.
This spring, before the leaves popped out, there were numerous letters to the editor complaining about the blight along our roadways, despite Delaware’s ad campaign on littering and recycling.
Are straws a large part by weight of this trash? No. But they are a very simple on-ramp as a first step for humans transitioning to a zero-waste culture by reducing their use of “throwaway” plastics. These plastics use up limited supplies of oil and natural gas (in and of themselves, extraction and polluting industries) and waste more of these resources in their transportation around the country.
Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle – in that order.
The European Union and other countries, such as Costa Rica, have already taken the step of banning plastic straws and other single-use plastics. It is not overreach for the U.S. to follow suit.
Although more than 75 restaurants in Delaware have already jumped on the plastic straws-by-request-only wagon this year, there are countless more who have not yet “read the memo” and need that extra push of legislation to take this step. Legislation creates a level playing field for all restaurants simultaneously, educates the public about the issue and encourages behavior change regarding not only plastic straws but other ways of changing our culture toward a goal of zero waste.
Studies are increasingly proving that the toxic particles resulting from the breakdown of single-use plastics — which are not biodegradable — are ending up in our own food chain as small particles in the ocean ingested by marine life. Is it not the government’s job to protect its citizens from health risks and to protect wildlife from the harm caused by humans?
Reducing the use of plastic straws may seem like a drop in the ocean of plastic pollution and marine debris, but it is one easy way for citizens to begin thinking about the enormous issue of the unsustainable practice of single-use plastics and adopt a simple behavior change — and then take one more step.
Read or Share this story: https://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2018/09/04/banning-plastic-straws-would-good-our-health-environment/1193298002/