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#StopSucking is just a start

The #StopSucking movement fails to account for the other and more significant causes of pollution. We can't only give up straws to combat the self-imposed problem.

by Lily Hart, Managing Editor of Web

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I was horrified when all of a sudden, I saw graphic images online of sea turtles with plastic straws stuck in their noses that had made their way into the ocean. Little did I know it would lead to Seattle making plastic straws illegal in a surprisingly short period of time. Action is key but most people miss the main point of those images that went viral. All single-use plastic is the problem, not just straws. Banning straws is a good start but it’s not enough to be the movement that solves it.

The recent movement to make plastic straws illegal is superficial. This is especially true when people give up using them, only to make alternatives… out of plastic. For example, Starbucks will replace their iconic green straws with ‘strawless lids,’ which, according to the Guardian, has more plastic in it than the straws. This is a step in the wrong direction. Starbucks provides a perfect example of people missing the point that straws are a very minor part of a global problem.

In fact, Bloomberg News puts straws at only 0.03 percent of the plastic waste that humans generate on a global scale by weight.

When people stop using plastic straws but continue to buy plastic water bottles by the pack, carry them home in plastic bags, and drink half of one to then throw it away rather than even recycling it, that does next to nothing. It could be dangerous to our world if we start to think that giving up straws makes up for us using more kinds of single-use plastic.

Making plastic straws illegal only scratches the surface of the reform we need to counteract ocean pollution, and pollution in general. In theory, it’s a step in the right direction, but not in actuality, as the movement fails to acknowledge the main contributors to ocean waste.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has allowed researchers to dissect this issue. They have found that at least 46 percent of the plastic in the patch is from fishing nets and other fishing gear. This is the real killer. According to Minter, ghost gear “goes on fishing long after its been abandoned,” killing sea life in the millions each year.

Not only does the ban on plastic straws neglect the bigger picture, it also forgets that some people with disabilities need plastic straws to help them drink.

The alternatives to plastic straws like metal, biodegradable, or paper products are often not as useful, accessible or affordable. For people with limited jaw control, the flexibleness of the plastic is necessary, and what’s more is that no one can be expected to always remember their reusable straws when they go places. This is another thing the #StopSucking movement fails to see in its surface-level execution.

The movement to ditch single use plastic has to start somewhere, and since it’s going to start with straws, we need to make sure we don’t stop there. We need to make sure they are legal for those among us who depend on them. We need to make sure they are being replaced with compostable or reusable substitutes where they can be, but most of all we need to make sure they’re not the only thing we give up to feign caring about our world.

So yes, you can be proud of yourself for saving a turtle by not grabbing a straw at a restaurant where a waiter might ask, “Now do we want straws OR do we want to save the turtles?” as one Twitter user put it but know that unless you actively try to make less plastic waste, and more importantly realize that giving up straws is just the tip of the iceberg, we’ll never make any progress. We’ll never tackle this plague, this manmade disaster.

We need to take this anti-straw energy, redirect it and multiply it out. Don’t just ditch a straw once a week, ditch plastic grocery bags. Recycle the plastic you do end up using. Take your activism to the policy-changing level where laws could be put in place for seafood companies about waste management or where rich governments could help developing countries put the same laws in place. It’s more work than saying no to a single piece of plastic you can live without, but there’s no Lazy Man’s Guide to saving the Earth.

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About the Writer
Lily Hart, Managing Editor of Web

Welcome back! I’m Lily Hart, a second-year staffer and managing editor of web. While living the #darticated life might not be easy, it is endlessly worthwhile. After finishing up a page design or completing an interview, you might find me in dramatic hysterics with my friends, having brunch or reliving my glory days through early 2000s bops. As a second year staffer I hope to keep growing and improving on my skills on staff while balancing it with my many hours of homework. So, as Tom Haverford greatly put it: get ready to “Treat yo’ self” to some high quality new content this year!

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