The Straw-man Argument for Banning Straws

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Posted by Daniel Silverman on Thursday, August 2nd, 2018, 10:32 AM PERMALINK

You might have noticed memes related to straw bans spreading across the Internet.

This is happening for good reason, as California (surprise, surprise) has led a misguided charge by governments across the country against plastic straws.

Santa Barbara, CA has now famously gone so far as make violating its ban on straws punishable with jail time (or a $1,000 fine). 

Moreover, each plastic straw represents a separate penalty, so someone could theoretically be jailed 30 months for handing out five plastic straws to five different people. According to Santa Barbara’s environmental outreach coordinator, the penalty would not affect “first-time offenders,” and only represents a “last-line of defense.” So for potential two-time plastic straw delinquents in Santa Barbara, beware!

San Francisco and nine other cities in California, Portland, Washington D.C., New York City and State, and Hawaii have also jumped on the “ban-wagon.” Seattle, for example, imposes a $250 fine on restaurants that offer plastic straws.

The hysteria over straws has been fueled by ambiguous, and sometimes outright false information.

For example, according to Reason, 15 major news sources, including The Washington Post, CNN, Reuters, and National Geographic, publicized that Americans use 500 million straws per day. As it turns out, the 500-million number comes from a nine-year old child’s estimations.

In reality, plastic straws account for only 2000 tons of the nine million tons - approximately 0.02 percent - of plastic waste dumped into oceans annually.

On top of that, Americans only produce one percent of the world’s plastic waste. Banning plastic straws hardly amounts to the environmental victory that the anti-straw movement insists that it is.

That is not to mention the nightmare this policy is for disabled people who need straws in order to drink effectively at all.

When people are going to jail for drinking out of a straw and violating a ban that was built on phony stats, the zealous push for green policy has jumped the shark.

Twisty straws are fun, twisty facts are dangerous.  Before this absurd straw ban sucks up any more cities or states, public officials should get their facts straight.

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