The Irony of the Plastic Straw Ban

By Adriana Cohen

July 27, 2018 4 min read

You know you're a misguided environmentalist if you support banning plastic straws — the latest enviro craze sweeping the nation — while still consuming trendy Frappuccino-like drinks contained in big ol' plastic cups.

Cups that also have plastic lids.

Has it ever occurred to enviro "elites," who never hesitate to ban any product they dislike, that the plastic cups they routinely use will end up in the same landfill or ocean as those plastic straws?

Perhaps the extremist crowd in Santa Barbara, a city that has criminalized the use of plastic straws and will jail and fine offenders, hasn't noticed that the single-use plastic cups they buy and chuck everyday from their local coffee joint has a significantly bigger plastic load than the little plastic straws and stirrers they want to keep out of the ocean. The same goes for all the juices, soft drinks and other beverages contained in plastic that they continue to consume — not to mention scores of other plastic products they purchase across industries.

Do facts matter, or are "banners" more interested in "feel-good" symbolic environmentalism than actually curtailing marine pollution?

And how about the K-Cup crowd?

There are millions of consumers worldwide that use single-cup coffee brewing machines that require single-use, disposable coffee pods choking landfills in a town near you. How many of these shortsighted folks have jumped on the bandwagon calling for bans on plastic water bottles and/or plastic straws? Shouldn't they ditch their single-use coffee machines — which add billions of non-recyclable, non-biodegradable brewing pods into the waste stream — before stripping their neighbors' liberty to use a plastic straw or coffee stirrer?

And when it comes to the economy, any sensible human must consider the impact on manufacturers and the jobs that these enviro activists will systematically destroy by stressing industries that produce targeted products.

Yes, keeping trash out of the ocean is a worthwhile pursuit. So far, 15 U.S. towns have implemented bans on plastic straws; But before another zip code takes measures to ban the next random product, consider the big picture. Is it worth taking away millions of Americans' consumer choice, destroying businesses and losing significant tax revenue from targeted industries when there are millions of disposable plastic products contributing to ocean pollution worldwide?

Why single out plastic straws, which make up less than four percent of the plastic waste stream? Shouldn't activists focus on reducing the environmental impact of the other 96 percent? Let's also address the fact that China, the world's biggest polluter, along with third world nations with little to no interest in sustainability, won't be curtailing its massive contribution to marine pollution anytime soon.

While you ponder the latest crusade to make the plastic industry the new whipping boy, consider that single product bans rarely succeed in achieving its primary objective — reducing plastic waste. To the contrary, misguided bans often have the unintended consequence of causing a mass consumer shift to replacement products that are even more detrimental to mother nature.

All the more reason communities across the United States should bolster effective recycling initiatives and worthwhile education initiatives versus heavy-handed product bans.

Protecting the ocean is noble. Misguided solutions, however, won't resolve the problem.

Adriana Cohen is a syndicated columnist with the Boston Herald. Follow her on Twitter @AdrianaCohen16. To find out more about Adriana Cohen and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

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