Should plastic drinking straws be banned? We’re not going to lie to you, this has been a contentious and popular topic of late. For decades, Americans have become quite accustomed to plastic straws at fast food restaurants, gas stations, and other convenience stores. It’s so ingrained in our culture, taking it away might sound awful if not tyrannical. At the same time, few stop to think how many plastic straws are used a day and what affect it has on the environment as a whole. Many American cities, however, have stepped up to combat what they see as a big problem. Still, is that a good idea? We’re here to hash that all out.
Once again, List25 is here to answer your questions and debate the issue in another series we call Deathmatch. List25 editors, Jason and Crystal, are back for another round, with Jason arguing that plastic straws should be banned and Crystal arguing against it.
Yes: Straws are mostly worthless.
Straws help really little kids and the disabled, but for the rest of us, we can drink any liquid perfectly fine without a straw. Yet, for some reason, every fast food joint and restaurant decided everyone should get an unlimited supply of free plastic straws. Straws serve very little purpose. If you don’t need them, stop using them. – JI
No: Paper straws and other alternatives aren't much better.
Paper straws disintegrate while you’re using them, especially if using hot liquids. Not to mention, paper in a landfill doesn’t typically biodegrade like you might think; it mummifies. Bamboo is much more expensive to produce, and metal can break teeth (I can imagine the law suits now). –CC
Yes: Straws are a wasteful luxury.
All those plastic straws at fast food restaurants are a wasteful luxury. The lids prevent spills, sure, but you can still drink out of a glass with a lid and not a straw. Even if, heaven forbid, there’s a spill, there’s a magical tool called a rag that can clean it up. Straws are made for convenience and laziness. – JI
Yes: They cause gas and bloating.
So you just devoured a Big Mac, salty fries, and slurped down your Coke with a plastic straw. Not long after, you’re feeling sick, bloated, and gassy. You blame it on the fast food and the pop, of course, but I have news for you. It’s the straw. Gas in your digestive track usually comes from excess air sucked in while drinking. When you suck through a straw, it creates more excess air in your body, creating gas and bloating. If you stop drinking from straws, you’ll probably stop being so gassy. – JI
No: It would leave the disabled at a disadvantage.
Did you know the straw was originally designed to help the disabled? Before the creation of the plastic straw, plenty of sanitary issues arose with reusable silicon feeding tubes. Substitutes such as metal and paper don’t provide the same help, and they can also cause other problems. –CC
Yes: They cause cavities.
If you’re using a straw, chances are you’re drinking sugary pop. When you drink pop with a straw, it sends a concentrated amount of sugary liquid at your teeth, allowing cavities to form more easily. So, save yourself the health problems and the health bills and skip the straws. – JI
No: Bans are a slippery political slope.
While government involvement gets things done, it often gets things done in a way that isn’t well planned out or organized, and there are often a lot of people and problems that fall through the cracks. Also, the phrase, “Give them an inch, they’ll take a mile,” is usually pretty applicable to any form of government control. –CC
Yes: They contain Polypropylene.
Straws are made with polypropylene. The FDA considers this type of plastic safe. However, one peer reviewed study showed the chemicals could still leech into the environment. Those chemicals then get into ecosystems and our food. Bottom line, if you’re not a fan of using plastic to contain your food or liquids, then stop using straws. – JI
No: It starts with being responsible.
As mentioned before, plastic drinking straws started out as a medical aid. Now that they are for everybody and anybody, it’s no wonder that they contribute to our environmental problems. Instead of banning them, it’s much better to promote wise and responsible choices. If you really don’t need a straw, don’t use one. If you want to be really pro-active, tell your server you don’t want one before they bring it to your table. This allows access and availability to those who need them without red tape. –CC
Yes: Straws are made to pollute.
According to the National Park Service, among other organizations, Americans use 500 million straws a day. The New York Times fact checked this and came in at a lower statistic of 173 million a day or 63 billion a year. Whatever numbers you want to use, Americans use a preposterous amount of plastic straws only to end up in landfills, city streets, and oceans. One even ended up in a sea turtle’s nose! Again, once the plastic is in the environment, the chemicals leech into our food. – JI
No: Some replacements are worse for the environment than the straws.
It’s pretty obvious that some companies championing and supporting the straw ban are in it just for the show as their replacement products actually create more plastic waste than the straw. For example, the new lid for Starbucks cups do more harm than good. If the goal is to solve a problem, solutions that actually help solve some of our environmental concerns should be put in place rather than solutions that are mainly political and hip. –CC
Yes: Plastic straws aren't recyclable.
Though many people believe plastic straws are recyclable since they’re made of plastic, I hate to tell you this, but they aren’t. Most recycling plants don’t accept them. Even if they were recyclable, most Americans aren’t even trying to recycle them. Billions of straws a year are pointlessly polluting the Earth so you can be lazy. – JI
No: The ban won't create the environmental change people think.
It’s true! Our world is in pretty big trouble because of all the trash and plastic we create and dump. There’s no denying it. However, according to a study by Jambeck Research Group, plastic straws only account for about .03% of the collective plastic in the oceans. There are other environmental changes we could make that would have more of an impact. –CC
Yes: We have to start somewhere.
In response to banning straws, people usually throw out a red herring, saying there are other, bigger environmental problems than banning plastic straws. That doesn’t address the problem of plastic straws, and it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. At the end of the day, we have to start somewhere. This is a relatively new problem, and it’s a fairly easy problem to fix. First, do your part and stop using them. If people stop using them, businesses will stop buying them. Second, call or email your representative. Tell them to ban plastic straws. Remember, plastic straws are a pointless and wasteful pollutant. – JI
Want more debates on hot topics? You need to read List25 Deathmatch: Should You Microwave Your Coffee?