Sue sells seashells by the seashore. But she won’t sip soda from a plastic straw—at least not in Seattle. The entire city has banned single-use plastic straws and utensils.
Seattle wants to reduce waste and prevent marine plastic pollution. Environmental advocates say many single-use straws end up in the ocean where they harm sea life. Videos of animals choking on or being pierced by plastic have gone viral—and prompted many to take action.
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible asserts God’s ownership of “the world and those who dwell therein.” (Psalm 24:1) That should humble believers: Earth isn’t ours to abuse! Protecting the environment and defending all creatures show reverence for the Creator and love for His creation. Those actions also mirror the active love of Jesus Christ to a careless world.
As of this summer, Seattle businesses that sell food or drinks may no longer offer plastic silverware, straws, or stirrers. Instead of plastic, the city’s 5,000 restaurants use recyclable and compostable items. The city hopes businesses will go a step further: Switch to paper or wood rather than compostable plastic straws—or not provide straws at all.
New York and San Francisco are studying banning plastic straws as well. California is considering statewide restrictions on single-use plastics. Across the Atlantic, the United Kingdom plans to ban the sale of plastic-stemmed cotton swabs and plastic straws and stirrers.
Not everyone wants to get rid of plastic though. Legislation to ban plastic straws in Hawaii died this year. Other cities also face pushback.
Critics say plastic straw bans won’t do much to solve the problem. Studies have shown that lost or abandoned fishing gear accounts for 52% of marine trash. And up to 95% of plastic waste enters the oceans from just 10 rivers—eight in Asia and two in Africa. By comparison, straws—a seemingly unnecessary luxury—are an easy target.
But for some disabled persons, plastic straws aren’t just a luxury. In the attempt to care for marine life, these even more valuable humans have been overlooked. Flexible straws are the only way they can consume liquid. Reusable straws degrade too quickly. Metal straws conduct cold and heat too well. Other options are too rigid, a danger for someone without muscle control. Then there’s the problem of sanitizing reusable straws—another hurdle for disabled persons.
As with many issues, there are two sides to the plastic ban. Most people realize it will take more than scrapping straws to curb ocean pollution.