Nat Geo: How Do Plastic Straw Bans Work?

How Do Plastic Straw Bans Work?

The movement to ban plastic straws is growing, but phasing them out can be more complicated than it seems.

By Sarah Gibbens, National Geographic, July 23, 2018

Though just a small fraction of all plastic pollution, straws have become a symbol of waste to rally behind and a feasible way for consumers to feel like they’re making a difference. But how do such bans actually go from a pipe dream to a reality on the ground? And what impact will they have?

How Hard Is it to Find Alternatives?

In Seattle, city officials initially struggled to find viable alternatives to plastic for straws when bans were first proposed 10 years ago. It was similarly a challenge to find alternatives for other single-use items.

“The biggest hurdle was finding a sustainable alternative,” says Alaska Airlines Sustainability Manager Jacqueline Drumheller. She says the airline will no longer offer plastic stir straws in its hot beverages like coffee and tea, and citrus picks will also be made from non-plastic material, but they still plan to stock compostable straws aboard flights.

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One of the U.S.’s largest paper straw manufacturers is a subsidiary of Precision Products Group named Aardvark Straws. It was created in 2007 after eco-friendly businesses like zoos and aquariums asked manufacturers for more sustainable alternatives to plastic. Yet they are having trouble keeping up with surging demand, the company’s global business director, David Rhodes, told National Geographic in a previous interview. Is it Expensive to Use Plastic Alternatives? Aardvark said paper straws typically cause about a penny more to make than plastic straws.