September 06, 2018

Companies and cities in the US are banning plastic straws ostensibly in an effort to curb the huge volumes of plastic waste being dumped in the world’s oceans.

But the real reason for these bans has more to do with corporate image-building than environmental sustainability.

The Walt Disney Company announced that it will eliminate single-use plastic straws and plastic stirrers at all owned and operated locations across the globe. American Airlines and Starbucks have introduced similar policies. The cities of Seattle and San Francisco have joined the rush to outlaw these widely used items.

The problem is that eliminating plastic straws from points of sale will have very little impact on the tide of plastic entering our seas and oceans. As Bloomberg reports, an Australian study estimates that there are up to 8.3 billion plastic straws scattered on global coastlines. If these straws were washed into the ocean, they would account for about 0.03 percent of the estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste that enters the oceans annually. Furthermore, the journal Science estimated that the United States is responsible for less than one percent of all ocean-borne plastic debris.

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