Should Palo Alto Ban All Single Use Plastics

Devon Lee, Sports Editor

Ever since a video that shows a turtle struggling with a straw stuck up its nose went viral, environmentalist groups such as Stop Sucking and the Ocean Conservancy, as well as many online activists,
have advocated for a ban on plastic straws. This has sparked a trend to move towards the removal of all single-use plastics. As a result, many large corporations, such as Disney, Starbucks, Hilton and
American Airlines, have jumped on the plastic straw ban bandwagon. According to the City of Palo Alto website, the City has adopted the Disposable Foodware Items and Other Disposable Products Ordinance as part of the Disposable Foodware Packaging Reduction Plan in an effort to protect the environment. On Jan. 1, 2020, all plastic straws, plastic utensils, plastic stirrers, plastic beverage plugs and plastic produce bags will no longer be allowed in Palo Alto. This new policy raises concerns about the legitimacy of simply eliminating single-use plastics from daily life. Although the policy may seem foolproof, the consequences and purpose of the ordinance could be indicative of a larger, more concerning issue about removing plastics. Single-use plastics should not be banned because most alternatives do not effectively better the environment and some plastic products are necessary for people with disabilities. The most concerning issue with banning all single-use plastics or plastic straws is that the net environmental impact of using alternatives is greater than that of single-use plastics. According to the World Resources Institute, paper, cotton and reusable plastic bag manufacturing requires more land, water and other resources to produce than single- use plastic bags. While reusable plastic bags are considered to be more friendly to the environment, they are not yet proven to be an effective alternative to what is commonly used today. Another issue with banning plastic straws is that there is no alternative to single-use plastics that can serve the needs of the disabled community. According to Maria Godoy of Vox News, flimsy alternatives such as paper straws can fall apart or be bitten through easily. Silicon and metal straws pose problems for those withmobilityissuesbecauseoftheirstiffness.Reusablestraws canalsobedifficulttoclean.Essentially,noneoftheseso-called alternatives can truly replace the function of a plastic straw: to be an accessible utensil for everyone, regardless of ability. Another concern of removing plastic straws and single- use plastics is that it is simply a luxury many businesses cannot afford. According to National Geographic, the cost of a paper straw is about 1 cent more than a plastic straw. This information is concerning; for smaller businesses, paying more money is simply not an option. Instead of coming up with solutions that do little to improve the environment and come with many adverse side effects, preservationists should think of new ways to protect the environment that can tackle the issue in a more practical sense. It seems as if people have gotten attached to the idea of saving the environment and are more focused on superficial answers rather than looking for real, practical solutions to today’s issues.