Julie Gunlock already has blogged on Starbucks' decision to giive up plastic straws.
Julie points out that banning plastic straws is not actually going to help the planet and is really just a gesture to please activists.
Now, Christian Britschgi at Reason Online shows that it is even worse than that: the new tops Starbucks will use in place of the current staw and top combonations actually contain more plastic.
Apparently, unlike Starbucks leadership, Britschgi has done the weighing:
Yet missing from this fanfare was the inconvenient fact that by ditching plastic straws, Starbucks will actually be increasing its plastic use. As it turns out, the new nitro lids that Starbucks is leaning on to replace straws are made up of more plastic than the company's current lid/straw combination.
Right now, Starbucks patrons are topping most of their cold drinks with either 3.23 grams or 3.55 grams of plastic product, depending on whether they pair their lid with a small or large straw. The new nitro lids meanwhile weigh either 3.55 or 4.11 grams, depending again on lid size.
(I got these results by measuring Starbucks' plastic straws and lids on two separate scales, both of which gave me the same results.)
This means customers are at best breaking even under Starbucks' strawless scheme, or they are adding between .32 and .88 grams to their plastic consumption per drink. Given that customers are going to use a mix of the larger and smaller nitro lids, Starbucks' plastic consumption is bound to increase, although it's anybody's guess as to how much.
When Reason contacted Starbucks to ask about this, the spokesperson replied that the new lids are recyclable, whereas the current straws are not. This sounds good, too. However, Britschgi explains why recycling matters less than the weight of the plastic:
This is cold comfort given the fact that even most of the stuff that is put in recycling bins still winds up at the dump. The company did not address, nor did it dispute, that its transition to strawless lids would increase its overall plastic consumption.
The weight of plastic—not the raw number of plastic objects used, or whether those objects are recyclable—is what should really concern environmentalists
Pictures of turtles with straws up their noses are certainly jarring. However most plastic, whatever form it enters the ocean as, will eventually be broken up into much smaller pieces known as micro-plastics. It is these micro-plastics that form those giant ocean garbage patches, pile up on the ocean floor, and leech into the stomachs and flesh of sea creatures.
What would it take to cut down on the plastic we put into the ocean:
Reducing the amount of micro-plastics in the ocean thus requires cutting down on the aggregate weight of plastics entering the ocean each year. It cannot be stressed enough that straws, by weight, are a tiny portion of this plastic.
At most, straws account for about 2,000 tons of the 9 million tons of plastic that are estimated to enter the ocean each year, according to the Associated Press—.02 percent of all plastic waste. The pollution problem posed by straws looks even smaller when considering that the United States is responsible for about one percent of plastic waste entering the oceans, with straws being a smaller percentage still.
As countless experts have stressed, truly addressing the problem of marine plastic pollution will require going after the source of this pollution, namely all the uncollected litter from poorer coastal countries that lack developed waste management systems.
Julie also addressed the issue of marine pollution and developing nations.
Julie suggests that some of the money being used to transtion away from plastic straws go towards the development of waste management in the developing world.
Wouldn't promoting business development in the third world also be helpful?
I mean, with better economies, developing countries might have the funds to afford waste management systems.
But this is not politically correct.
Additionally, the gesture of giving up straws is probably so satisfying (unless you are a disabled person who depends on straws) that only a killjoy would question whether it actually saves the planet.
We live in a world where the gesture is the thing.