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Plastic Straws: Tubes Of Death

Plastic Straws: Tubes Of Death

In case you haven’t noticed, plastic straws have suddenly joined SUVs and fur coats as loathsome symbols of American decadence and waste.

Every time you turn on the news someone is ranting about how many plastic straws we use. And how they're polluting the oceans and killing sweet sea creatures. 

Several weeks ago Seattle became the first major city to ban the ocean-choking cylinders of death. Get caught sucking through a plastic straw in Seattle and it could cost you $250. 

And in California one powerful politician is pushing a bill that would slap a $1,000 fine on any waiter who dared offer a straw to a customer.

Yet all this anti-straw hysteria is based on scare statistics. 

Not science or hard data.

For example, in a discussion about Seattle’s straw ban on July 3, Fox News’ resident liberal Juan Williams declared that there are more plastic straws than fish in the oceans.

No one called him out. 

Trouble is, Williams' assertion isn’t true. No one knows the precise number of fish in the oceans. Let alone how many straws are in there.

But it's this sort of emotional drivel that's driving the nationwide demonization of straws.

And before anyone accuses me of wanting to wreck the waters and choke cute sea turtles, let me say I’m all in favor of using less plastic. I think sticking a straw in glass in a restaurant is stupid. Either the glass is clean or it isn’t. A straw isn’t going to protect you.

Beyond that, puckering up to suck on a straw is believed to contribute to wrinkles around the lips, like a smoker's. No thanks.

It’s one thing if restaurants want to make straws a by-request item. But if cities and states are going to pass laws prohibiting their use, there should be a darn good reason.

A sad picture of a sea turtle with a straw in his nose - like the one that went viral in 2015 - isn't good enough.

Anti-straw activists repeatedly claim that Americans use 500 million plastic straws a day. Think about it for a minute. The population of the US is about 327 million. Roughly 4 million babies are born every year. They can’t use straws. So that means the 323 million men, women and children with the ability to suck are using all those straws. Every single day.

But hold on. You probably thought - as I did at first - that the 500 million figure was some sort of official industry figure. 

It’s not. That zany number is the result of home-cooked research by one crusading kid.

Yet, many in the news media have latched onto it. Like NBC.

“At an average rate, Americans use 1.6 straws a day, or 584 a year…” NBC declared in a news story last winter. “Nationwide, that’s 500 million drinking straws thrown away every day — enough straws to fill about 46,400 school buses each year."

NBC eventually retracted the numbers, admitting they had already been "debunked."

Turns out that the 500 million straw stat came from a recycling outfit, which got its information from a nine-year-old boy.

According to the magazine, Reason, Milo Cress, 16, of Vermont, conducted phone interviews in 2011 that led to that steep number.

“The actual number of straws being used is unclear,” reported Reason. “… news outlets writing about this issue—from CNN to the San Francisco Chronicle—unfailingly state that Americans use 500 million plastic straws a day, many of them ending up in waterways and oceans. The 500 million figure is often attributed to the National Park Service; it in turn got it from the recycling company Eco-Cycle.

“Eco-Cycle is unable to provide any data to back up this number, telling Reason that it was relying on the research of one Milo Cress."


And in a piece published by Slate yesterday: “Respect The Straw Ban …Even If It Doesn’t Really Matter” the left-leaning online publication conceded that the prohibition will do little more than make well-intentioned people feel good.

 “…according to a global survey of beach cleanups conducted by the Ocean Conservancy, straws and stirrers are the seventh-most-common item of beach trash after cigarette butts, plastic bottles, bottle caps, food wrappers, grocery bags, and plastic lids,” noted Slate.

“On the flip side: Straws are less likely to distract turtles than, say, bottle lids that resemble surface insects or fractured balloons that look like jellyfish. By weight, straws likely constitute a minuscule fraction of ocean waste, and therefore, make up a tiny fraction of the so-called plastic soup that constitutes the ocean’s biggest hazard.”

Look, drink through a plastic straw or don’t. It's up to you.

But please refrain from using straw statistics to support your decision. 

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