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August 27 2018

Polls: Americans Cool to Plastic Straws but Don’t Want Them Banned

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

New polling indicates that Americans are increasingly more willing to give up their plastic straws, but they don’t want government getting rid of them.

Seattle banned plastic straws and, last week California became the first state to approve a ban on restuarants giving out plastic straws unless requested by customers.

Americans may be open to giving up plastic straws, but they don’t agree with these legislative measures. They would rather see private businesses phase them out than have lawmakers ban them outright.

A new survey by Buzzfeed News and Ipsos explores perceptions of plastic straws finding:

Plastic straws are still widely used and preferred:

  • 74% - have used at least one plastic straw in the past week.

  • 59% - would prefer to always receive a plastic straw at a fast food restaurant

  • 50% - would prefer to always receive one at a sit-down restaurant

  • 41% - have started using fewer plastic straws due to recent attention on the issue

Most oppose government bans:

  • 78% - are familiar with recent efforts to ban plastic straws in places

  • 48% - support local governments banning the use of plastic straws

  • 75% - support businesses providing plastic straws only when customers request them

  • 79% - support businesses choosing only to provide biodegradable straws

What’s interesting here is that both the plastic industry and some environmentalists agree with customers that a government ban is the wrong approach.

Jacob Barron, a spokesperson for the trade group Plastics Industry Association, said: “We agree with the majority of survey respondents who prefer straws-upon-request policies over outright bans. Consumers should be allowed to choose a plastic straw if they want or need one.”

Leonard, chief scientist of the Ocean Conservancy, noted: “There really is broad support for straws upon request. It’s a no-brainer for the private sector to get behind.”

The private sector is jumping off the plastic straw bandwagon as companies including Starbucks, Marriott, Ikea, Seaworld, and Royal Caribbean are phasing out their use.

A bigger question is whether plastic straws are being unfairly targeted as the worst pollutants of our seas. Turns out they are not. Of the 8 million tons of plastic trash that ended up on the sea's floor, plastic straws represent only 1 percent of it.

Even more, the U.S. is not the worst offender - not even close. The U.S. ranks 20th of the world's biggest plastic pollutants behind China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and others.

What’s driving the anti-plastic straw angst maybe an anti-plastic campaign. If environmentalists can change people’s plastic straw perception and usage, they can be persuaded against other plastics use.

One point is clear. Even if Americans eventually move away from plastic straw usage one day, it shouldn’t be because they have been banned by government officials but based on a private sector and customer-driven decision.

>>> Plastic straw bans won't save oceans: 'We're trading a lot for nothing'

>>> Suck This Up: Seattle Bans Plastic Straws

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Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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