It was a very noticeable shift to making me think about their use.
Buying one because I've forgotten is a rare, and slight annoyance (the price doesn't put me off, it just changes the mental model).
Saving the environment didn't matter, but 5p does? People didn't know plastic was bad before? They didn't care?
It's great that the 5p charge works, but do we need to have a 5p charge on every bit of plastic to drive the point home?
I'd argue "Yep". We've shown repeatedly we value convenience over the environment time and time again, I think we need to be pragmatic and, rather than guilt people into making better decisions, guide them to do it through this kind of (albeit fake) positive reinforcement - "save money by just using that thing you have".
Most people buying a loaf of Hovis and some baked beans of an evening give precisely zero sh*tes about the ecological concerns of their decisions. It'd be great if people just decided to be concerned, but I think we need to be realistic about the motivations of people, and their priorities.
1) Bags cost 1p, but now cost 10p.
2) Bags were free, but now cost 1p.
I bet that the reduction in bag use would be far greater in scenario 2 than in scenario 1. It's like why a very cheap paid app is disproportionately harder to market than a free app.
Is this a people thing?
I observed very often that cashiers routinely gave away much too many bags for customers that didn't ask for them, maybe to look generous?
I still see in McDonalds and Burger King that they insist in putting in the shelf a lot of ketchup bags, drinking straws or paper napkings that I don't asked for or want. Simply forbidding them to do that if not requested would save a lot of trouble.
I guess for McDo the sauce costs a penny or two and they want to minimise interactions as they are costly; but theft must be too high off sauce is freely available.
For McDo it might well be a strong differentiator, customers see them as generous because of the excess sauce. Might also cause customers to make less mess under the psychology of feeling endebted when receiving a "gift".
Re plastic, a packaging company CEO stated on BBC radio (R4) this evening the expected additional cost of replacing burger packaging with fully home-compostable burger packaging was around 1p and that they had similar solutions for all fast food packaging ready to go. Financial incentives to responsible packaging solutions seem necessary at this point.
i think it simply does not register, until something flips the switch. "money" is a powerful trigger. people pay special attention to what it is connected to.
It isn't about the money you pay, but the money you keep.
If I buy a few things for £4.99 then without a bag I can pay with a £10 note and get a £5 note back, but with the 5p charge I receive loads of coins in change.
Plus the cognitive pain of monetary amounts like £5.04
An extra charge to 'buy' the bottle would likely be a more effective incentive for me.
The only real solution is to have this stuff made from biodegradable materials.
It's 10% of the cost of the drink.
Just seems you're not super great at personal finance, is all.
Technically, it does reward folks when they don't take a plastic bag by not charging them. But the goal is to actually discourage people from taking one in the first place, so something that seems like a small penalty does this more effectively. You notice each time you forget to bring a bag with you, unlike the rewards. And it is universal.
Sometimes you want to reward folks, though - this works with plastic and glass recycling here in Norway. I save up most of this stuff at home and take it back to the grocery store, where I get a bit of money for most plastic and aluminum beverage bottles and some glass ones (mostly beer). If there weren't a reward for bringing it back, I'd just stick these in with plastic recycling or regular trash. This adds up so long as I don't take them in one at a time, something I can't get with a reusable plastic bag discount.
5p doesn't do it. 5p times hundreds does.
"Right, so I can kill a turtle for five pence then?"
Honestly, yes. Even if people do know that plastic is bad for the environment, they honestly don't care. I might be comparing California oranges to British apples here, so forgive me if this doesn't match your experience but here's a quick summary of what I see.
Back in 2007 San Francisco enacted the beginnings of a City-wide plastic bag ban, banning them and charging 10¢ for paper bags. First at large retailers, then to all retailers by about 2013 IIRC, I might be off a little bit on the time frame.
Here's what happened: I went from seeing plastic bags littered in the streets every day, floating around in the wind, a sight that was incredibly common since as far back as my earliest memories as a kid to not seeing one single plastic bag left on the street in the past 4 or 5 years? Can it still happen? Sure, theoretically, but as the other cities and counties around here started enacting their own ordinances, the chances of that happening were sharply reduced. Now there's a State-wide law that's largely the same.
Now I've also worked in the service industry in the past, and when it comes to disposables, people are pretty liberal about their use. A café I worked at had a refill policy that lasted the whole day if you brought back your cup, but hardly anybody would bring their cup back and we would still give them the refund anyway, but the idea was that would be one less cup+lid to reuse. We would also subtract 10¢ from the price if someone brought their own cup, but still, hardly anyone does.
Even if people were planning to eat in the café, oftentimes they would request to go orders "just in case", which meant more paper/boxes/plastic utensils/whatever. Oh and if you provide those stupid little plastic covers to close up your plastic lid and prevent spilling? Just another crappy piece of plastic. Ice cream shop or cake shop? Expect to go through a lot of wax paper, unnecessarily most of the time, along with paper cups, and either wooden or plastic spoons, not to mention those wooden stirring sticks. Or if you don't make straws readily available, then most of the time, people won't even ask for one, but if you put them right there in front of them, then suddenly you're buying a lot more straws to replace them. All of this is just one-type of business in the city. Go to another place, suddenly you're dealing with disposable chopsticks, or little plastic salsa containers, or some other crap.
This is a city that is considered 1. pretty liberal and conscientious and 2. pretty environmentally friendly, but take a walk in any neighborhood and just note the trash on the ground. Cigarette butts (which incidentally the city charges a 75¢ fee per pack of cigarettes ostensibly to recoup costs from clean up, but is really probably just a double down on sin taxes), broken bottles, any kind of chip bag, bits of sandwich wrapping paper, paper cups from coffee, you name it, it's around. Just not carry-out bags, or if you do see those, it is pretty rare compared to 10 years ago.
Sometimes I wonder what would happen if you taxed/enforced an extra fee collection at the point-of-sale for all of this crap? Or just banned it all outright. It's worth thinking about because obviously people don't really care, and if they don't care here, they probably care even less elsewhere.
Either way, it'll be worth paying attention to what happens in Taiwan from here on out, and in Scotland when their plastic straw ban comes into effect.
Nope, and it's a slippery slope and this kind of tax becomes regressive. It's because it works that it's used so often. Same with cigarettes and the like. Next will be soft drinks, fast food, etc, etc. Many who support these kinds of government punishments don't realize how much they associate themselves with prohibitionists and moral majority members they may criticize in other areas.
I could put forth a guess or two on attempts at action, but I am not familiar enough with the science to argue them wholeheartedly. But I can say the political decisions are rarely science based and more often based on perceived righteousness (which is why it's a tax and not illegal).
Color me unconvinced.
That's an assumption of bad faith. Now that is something that makes rational discussion impossible. You seem to see yourself as totally above the person talking with you, because you're just "rational". But you continually appeal to emotion yourself, and that emotion is fear:
"it's a slippery slope", "prohibitionists", "using the long arm of the law" (to describe a 5p charge), "regressive", "dangerous question","interminable lists of laws" etc
This is probably not related to plastic bags, but still interesting:
73% of deep sea fish ingested plastic
Those are some high quality bags!
Glad to see that more countries took similar easy steps.
The E.U. is forcing every member country charge for those bags by the end of 2018, and to make sure on average people use less than 90 bags per person per year by end of 2019.
For comparison, Danish and Finnish use only 4, France 80, and Portuguese 400+ 
This is an honest question. I am genuinely curious. Here in California, for example, the 10 cent bags you now pay for are much more robust than the cheap freebies of before, but also clearly use more material in their construction. I would estimate at least 5x-10x the mass per bag of the previous free ones.
(I much prefer the newer system, FWIW. The stronger bags are much more useful around the home, too.)
I guess these laws have an impact just simply making us make a decision on the number of bags we want to be charged for.
I’ve had convenience stores try to give me a bag for a candy bar. It’s one item and I’m going to eat it now. What am I going to do with this bag? There’s always a look of confusion when I ask for items not to be bagged. It’s just such a foreign thing.
I’m glad that my city has instituted a bag fee and banned plastic bags. A lot of places don’t actually seem to charge per bag as they’re supposed to, but even so the number of people bringing bags is much higher now and the number of bags used is way lower. And none of them are throwaway plastic.
The argument being that 1 bag isn't strong enough.
But New Yorkers tend to carry their groceries home in their hands for as far as a mile, instead of wheeling them out in carts to a car trunk and then carrying them 20 feet to the door of the house.
Heavy items (liquids and canned goods and stuff like potatoes) WILL tear through plastic bags if not double bagged. The worst offenders are half gallons of milk/juice, which have sharp corners.
This has happened to me more than once. I've also on occasion just made it home with a bag that's seconds from splitting open.
And then you're half a mile from home with your groceries all over the sidewalk and nothing to put them in.
Downside is that they are weak enough to break if mishandled.
Bigger bags to hold all your purchases - made from recycled plastic - are available from the cashiers for 20 cents.
Edit: Regular small bags are also available free of charge.
We keep them in the car or carry a collapsible one in a backpack, handbag, laptop bag, etc.
Glad to know you're helping bring down the average though
My technique is to always have such bags in my bags so that I never go anywhere without having them on me. Redundancy :)
If shops stopped selling plastic bags people would figure out a solution.
But then we cease to be a liberal (as in live and let live) society.
 I for one despise being in the company of someone on their phone while we're talking in the same way that others can't seem to forget the plastic tidal pool in the oceans.
I also walk and ride so the addictiveness of social media is literally a mortal danger to me in a way plastic bits aren't
When you get proper bags that you pay for they are much better. 25lbs in one bag is no problem even with sharp corners on some items.
That link also states a "higher carbon footprint" for the reusable bags if not reused. I believe the core argument for banning disposable bags, straws, etc is because these throwaway items end up on the sides of highways or in rivers and beaches. If ALL of your trash ends up in a landfill instead of out in the environment, the higher carbon footprint to manufacture them is worth it.
in my opinion the second biggest problem with regulation is that often regulators don't properly account for human nature and some percentage of people being shitty. the biggest problem with regulation is corruption and money in politics. i think regulation is necessary in lots of cases. not sure that my views are representative of most americans though.
You can purchase bags however, I think they cost $1. For my family the ban worked, we always reuse our bags now. Before it was easy to forget even though we try to always help the environment.
Make it illegal.
Don't worry about it.
People would be breaking into each others houses to sell them.
Or, more likely, they would make more guns to compensate.
Also, obviously you need to ban the manufacture of such weapons before you offer to buy them back.
WRAP previously reported information on carrier bag use based on a voluntary agreement with 7 major retailers (Asda, The Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose). Their data for 2014 showed that these retailers issued 7.6 billion single-use plastic carrier bags in England during that calendar year.
Defra’s data for the year from 7 April 2016 to 6 April 2017 shows a very substantial fall of 83% in the number of single-use plastic carrier bags issued by the seven largest retailers to just 1.3 billion single-use plastic carrier bags.
Italy is doing so since 2011, and it seems to be working just fine.
Fines allow businesses to judge the merits (and timeline) of shifting according to their needs. Bans force everyone to shift simultaneously. Ceteris paribus, bans promote incumbents while taxes facilitate new entrants. (TL; DR Britain versus Italy's economy.)
A small fee seems like a good halfway point between having no fee and an infinite fee.
It’s the probability of getting caught times the cost of the punishment. That’s the other problem with a ban. “Probability of getting caught” being a cost center, authorities prefer giant fines with low enforcement costs; this results in a system favouring the politically connected.
isn't that kind of the point?
There are microorganisms that eat certain polymers (PE), but I don't think anything will ever eat PTFE (teflon)
I'd bet that switching away from teflon frying pans you'll help the environment more than getting rid of a life time of PE bags. F chemistry is super nasty
For that matter, most people probably have more PTFE in their plumbing than stored in their kitchen cabinets.
Rubbermaid Bag Recycler Wastebasket
Still totally insignificant. A small plastic product packaging, of the kind everything comes in, has more plastic than 200 bags.
Like TSA "security theater", this is "environmental theater".
A plastic shopping bag weighs about 5 grams. Plastic product packaging does not weigh 1kg, not even close.
Second, the shape does matter. Bags are especially bad because they are large, thin and soft, they're easier to be carried away by wind or water, and easier for animals to get tangled in or mistaken for food.
All the more reason to ban them outright isn't it?
I see 'ban the bag!' as eco-theatre.
No, do not read CO2. That's not what banning plastic bags is about. It's about not having them all over the environment where all kinds of animals, from sea turtles to cows to elephants, eat them or get entangled in them
CO2 production is also not the only impact. How much canvas is floating in the ocean and clogging up rivers?
I spent an hour or so researching the issue a long time ago and I seem to recall another study by a French supermarket chain. You need to reuse your cotton bags a lot -- hundreds of times is right -- for it to become worthwhile. Which is doable, of course.
And of course, the carbon footprint of both plastic bags as well as cotton bags varies wildly depending on the weight etc.
“Nonwoven PP, on the other hand, is less costly than cotton. These bags need to be reused only 11 times to break even with the conventional plastic.”
Of course these are less durable that heavy cotton canvas. I doubt I could use one of these 200 times. I could definitely use a good canvas bag that many times.
Its just a losing gambit. You know how many shopping bags we have around the house? Supposed to save energy, but once you have 4 or 5 of them, you're up to a lifetime supply of plastic bags. And I'm sure we're not the only once.
This 'issue' is eco-theatre, in my view.
It’s not “eco-theater” to want to reduce the ecological cost of bags, though. Not is it “eco-theater” to want to keep millions of plastic bags out of the oceans and rivers, or out of storm drains where they cause clogs, or out of bushes and trees where they are just ugly.
And as I alluded to above, not all bags of the same material are made equal. The original British source has a range of 80-250g for cotton bags. The ones I use weigh in at less than 50g.
No, but can easily weight 40 to 200 grams. And accumulated over your grocery purchases can easily be 1kg or more.
If you instead care about "items" or "visual cleanness of the river that all the plastic gets blown into", it's a very different matter.
As George Carlin used to say, the planet is just fine. It's the people who are f*ed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W33HRc1A6c
(But sure, subjectively, plastic bags are a lesser concern, because they merely inconvenience us and trigger our empathy when a critter chokes on them, without directly threatening our own survival).
But I'd take it even further because even that is BS theater: industrial production of tons of crap in general should slow down. The packaging is an insignificant part of it. It just makes for nice headlines because dolphins and co get caught in it.
- Plastics really don't mix well. Even trace amount of a different polymer (those numbers in the bottom) will destroy the strength of a batch of plastic (there is research in this though)
- Recycling is expensive and in an economic battle against new stock (carbon tax?).
Cleaving the bonds to make diesel or feedstock is another option to "recycle" polymers (I dunno why it's not done. energy intensive wrt to oil? Dirty?)
Plastics are amazing... but we really should stop using them altogether except for fringe no alternative cases.
P.S. turns out plastics are bio-degradable by some tough organisms. So there's hope.
It's the equivalent of sweeping all those bags under the rug. They're still out there, just permeating into everything instead of being visible.
2030 is the same as saying "Lets kick the can down the road".
According to my fairly inaccurate kitchen scales the old ones weigh about 10g, the new ones weigh about 25g. So it's about a 5.6x drop, which is still fantastic.
I think everyone talks about the number of bags as it makes the decrease look bigger.
Environmental organizations here actually complained about the plastic bag tax because they feared it would lead to people buying garbage bag rolls instead of reusing the grocery bags for their garbage.
Anecdotally I'd say it also makes our garbage system "less messy" than systems that depends on bigger thrash bags - a hole in a large flimsy thrash bag is more likely and has a bigger negative effect than one in a small sturdy one.
Charging for bags was commonplace in the UK in the 80's ... how long have you been keeping these for??
I now have loads of "bags for life" because sometimes you forget to bring one, don't bring enough or shop on a whim.
Now, you don't get given a bag for your Sandwich & Water at lunch, and you don't get a free bag with your McDonalds meal to name just a couple of services.
1p or 5p wouldn't make much of a difference? A Family paying 100 pound a week on shopping at a super market, can easily just spend 100.35 on 7 bags and won't bat an eye lid.
If that was 107.00 that would make a real difference and I bet the decrease would be much greater.
The same acts in reverse.
I personally reuse the same bag every time I go shopping until it is damaged. When I walk to my local, I carry the two or three items I bought directly, rather than in a bag. I could afford to buy over a million plastic bags a year, yet I've changed my behaviour to avoid buying them whenever possible.
(In my case, it has nothing to do with being asked, as I invariably use the automated checkout machines. Bags are available for purchase adjacent to these machines, so it's not an availability problem either.)
This used to be a solved problem.
Most middle-class people don't take household bottles in for the 5c back -- they recycle them in bulk for free -- but bottles in public areas are scooped up by poorer people.
Also, some people game the system in various ways, like importing out-of-state cans for the return value, or other types of fraud, which can be abetted by shady recycling firms.
So basically, a micro-economy was created with all its attendant functional and not-so-functional aspects. But the basic problem of roadside litter was largely solved.
Relying on remembering before you leave the house or whatever is much less effective, I think.
- 0.20€ for a biodegradable bag
- 0.20€ for a plastic bag
It's good that they offer bio bags that are no longer more expensive than plastic bags but it should definitely be the other way around.
If they priced bio bags at 0.20€ and plastic bags at 1.20€ you would not hesitate to guess whether people would move to carry their own reusable nylon/cotton bags or buy the biodegradable bags instead (or, rather, two of them instead of one plastic as they break more easily).
I rarely buy a new plastic bag myself but when I do I don't even blink at the 0.20€ price. The price should make me stop for a moment and reconsider.
I wondered what this meant, so I looked it up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniform_Invoice_lottery
To encourage businesses to report their earnings, Taiwan's tax authorities operate a receipt lottery. Genius.
While I agree, it's like saying wrt plastic bags in the ocean, "Seems obvious that the solution is less littering" or "Seems obvious the solution is biodegradable bags" etc, etc. It is just so much easier for people to change laws and affect everyone than target the specific problem.
Lots of stores also don't ask and give you a bag at whatever the locale's imposed fee is which they keep it, so there is an incentive to do this.
At the end of the day, the externality should not be captured by the store, but should be refunded back to the user with even distribution.
Also, it shows that in considering the carbon footprint of reusable bags, we should factor in regular (not occasional) cleaning.
Considering that a reusable bag needs to be reused many (hundreds, if memory serves) of times before reaching carbon neutrality versus single use plastic bags, this is not necessarily a trivial impact.
"Homeless people learned long ago that pooping in plastic-bag-lined containers meant you could wrap the session up and dispose of all the stuff without touching it, he said in a long email. So when it got harder to get the bags after the ban went into effect late last year, it became harder to find the bags and people who were able to keep things clean had to work a lot harder."
"Hepatitis A is spread by contact with feces or blood of an infected person. It can be trace amounts and it can be months old"
Here are per-night homeless statistics from UN:
China has 2.6 million
Russia has 5 million
Ukraine 1 million
US has 554,000
But more profoundely, by homeless ratio, the US is not even close.
Germany, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Canada, the UK, Australia, Sweden, Luxembourg, Croatia, Bosnia, Russia, Peru France, Austria, the Netherlands, China and Greece -- ALL have higher homeless ratios than the United States. The US is in 33rd place for overall worldwide homelessness as a percentage of the population.
5 million figure for Russia for example appears on wikipedia  where it is cited from IB Times. IB Times cites Homeless World Cup as the source. Homeless World Cup cites the original IB Times article as the source for the 5 million number! This was the first number I investigated and it already seems super suspect.
They choose the plastic bags because the toilets are in disarray.
>The city pays for it. The shelter runs it.
"It is a win-win," said Presbyterian Night Shelter CEO Toby Owen. "We want a clean neighborhood that speaks hope, that speaks dignity to our homeless guests. And it also provides income for these individuals so they can move out and be successful without living in a homeless shelter."
Last year, Clean Slate put 40 homeless people to work, Owen said. Approximately 3,856 tons of trash was collected by Clean Slate workers. And they don't just clean up trash on the street -- they also work as janitors for businesses.
I'm guessing my own contribution would be far less than $10 per hour if this were tax financed.
If you and I can agree to each pay $5/h, maybe let's start there and find other people who also want to pay? Wouldn't that be better?
“I would love to spare some change, but my hands are tied until the corresponding bill passes the senate.”
It's not like they need decades of research to reintroduce paper straws, paper bags and reusable bags.
Edit: I'm confused now.
"As of next year, food and beverage stores such as fast food chains must stop providing plastic straws for in-store use. From 2020, free plastic straws will be banned from all food and beverage outlets. From 2025, the public will have to pay for takeaway plastic straws, and a blanket ban is to be imposed in 2030"
They're banned free from 2020, but public have to pay from 2025? What happens in between then?
I never understood straws however. They bypass your tounge, thereby skipping the whole point of a tasty drink, and nobody uses straws for water it seems. It is very strange, and looks vaugely infintile to see an adult suckling in public.
worse still, they impart much more of a flavor to the drink than a plastic or metal straw.
they seem to be able to make biodegradable plastic(ish?) straws which are fine, and sometimes it can actually feel kinda fancy to use a metal straw (which can be reused).
In 2002, the restriction on plastic bags that are thinner than 0.06mm was imposed to all stores, but it was not a complete ban. Stores that offer plastic bags thicker than 0.06mm need to charge customers. The idea behind thicker bag is reusability. Two types of responses from stores: Stores started providing thinner bag as long as they are bio-degradable (Link 1), or they provide thicker bag as long as customers are charged. Customer's response: Since 2002, 71.7 reduction in plastic bag use in supermarkets, and 43.4 reduction in plastic bag use in stores. (Link 2, Link 3)
And just a side note, Taipei started being more aggressive since 2000 by charging garbage bags. You have to purchase government issued garbage bags if you want to throw your garbage out of your house. (Mentioned in link 4)
Some links are in Chinese
Link 1: http://e-info.org.tw/node/202363
Similar to link 2 with different stats
That's the case in many countries - in Japan for example. (not government issued but city-issued or prefecture-issued bags).
When dirty I throw them in the dishwasher with the other cutleries. They don't take any space in the washer so cleaning them is essentially "free". (Making abstraction of the ecological cost of a dishwasher.)
No it isn't. Most countries have plenty of land available for storing waste. So long as its stored properly the environmental impact is negligible. Carbon footprint is far more important.
Considering how many vehicles and buildings are built with steel on this planet, I'd bet that the volume of steel needed to provide every person on earth with a steel straw once wouldn't even be noticed by the steel producers.
Actually, I just took a few minutes to look a couple things up and did the math. The US today likely recycles more than 6M tons of steel every year (it was 5.8M and rising in 2014), and a ton of steel can produce around 40K straws, if I divide one ton by the weight of a steel straw I saw on Amazon. This means we could produce steel straws for all on earth with about 200K tons of recycled steel, or less than 4% of the steel we're recycling every year in the US alone.
Note the steel industry and the EPA have somewhat different numbers for amount of recycling, it may be due to US vs global recycling, but I went with the EPA's which is more conservative.
I don't know about Taiwan, but note that metal recycling in the US is currently twice the weight of metal recycling, and plastic is twice the weight of land filling compared to metal; in other words plastic is a much larger problem.
With these things in mind, I'd personally be pretty surprised if a steel straw that lasts 10 years wasn't environmentally better (and by more than a little) on all scales than plastic straws for someone who drinks a soda with a straw every day for lunch.
CO2 is the primary concern. Storing waste is not a problem in most parts of the world.
The amount of steel it would require isn't important. What's important is how much energy it takes to make that straw and the other environmental impacts of doing so. It takes magnitudes more energy to melt steel than it does to melt plastic. It would take years to offset the CO2 costs of a steel straw. You also need to factor in the energy and water it takes to clean the straw and the likelihood of damaging or losing it over that time.
The best option is to stop using straws. They're completely unnecessary unless you have a physical disability.
I will note that straws are useful while driving, as you can drink without obscuring your view of the road. There's an argument that you shouldn't be distracting yourself from the road like that, but that's sort of a different discussion.
Hey, I completely agree with you there!
> CO2 is the primary concern.
> Storing waste is not a problem in most parts of the world.
I didn't say anything about storage space. Storage of waste isn't even close to the primary reason to avoid plastic waste.
> The amount of steel it would require isn't important.
It absolutely is, even if you only care about CO2. This statement contradicts other things you said. You can only make claims about one being better if you compare how much it takes to produce.
I'm trying to find sources on tons of CO2 emissions per ton of plastic & steel, and as a non-expert using Google, it's hard to pinpoint. But I get the feeling that metals are 2-3x the CO2 emissions of plastic. A steel straw would be much heavier than a plastic one, so based on this guesstimation, I'd expect CO2 parity for 1 steel straw to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 plastic straws. If I'm anywhere close to accurate, that doesn't seem like it takes very long to beat plastic on CO2.
If you think I'm wrong, you'll have to demonstrate it by showing how much steel it would require...
> What's important is how much energy it takes
I don't buy that blanket generalization. Energy is a highly debatable potentially misleading issue, and doesn't necessarily have a high impact on C02, if renewable energy sources are used like hydro & solar. We might be emitting CO2 by burning coal today, but we don't have to burn coal in the future.
> You also need to factor in the energy and water it takes to clean the straw and the likelihood of damaging or losing it over that time.
Sure, fine. That changes the average life of the straw. Let's say it's 1 year instead of 10. For someone who uses one straw per day at lunch only on work days, we'd have to compare the carbon footprint of 1 steel straw to about 260 plastic straws. Even for CO2 emissions, the disposable ones are at a pretty severe disadvantage any way you look at it.
As the other poster said, this is very hard to calculate.
By the way, around here (North Europe) we have special dishwashing brushes that apparently aren’t a big thing in most parts of the world.
 PDF https://web.archive.org/web/20091109165849/http://efficient-...
When you overload the dishwasher things don't get clean and then you wash by hand afterwards (in the case of pots/pans this might still be less water use just because when hand washing you are likely to drain the filthy water half way through)
I've seen people who scrub the food off by hand under running water before putting it in the dish washer - they are clearly using more water since hand washing plus rinsing the soap off is using less water than they use for the rood rinse.
That said, I would not expect a dishwasher can actually wash the inside of your straws so that is one of the things that should be reserved for hand washing. If you use a minimal amount of water in your wash sink, and a minimal amount of rinse water hand washing can be a low water use thing. Most people leave the water running for longer than they need to for rinsing and this wastes a lot of water.
Hot water usually costs a lot of valuable energy though.
and besides, not everything go in the dish washer. And moreover some the dish washer soap can attack the surface of many things => increasing the need to replace those things...
The water usage is almost a 10x difference and the power usage of handwashing is 2/3 more:
"A European study comparing hand washing to machine dish washing found that hand washers used as much as 27 gallons of water and 2.5 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy to wash 12 place settings, compared with the 4 gallons and 1.5 kWh used by a hyperefficient dishwasher to wash the same number of dishes."
120L = 7 very full sinkfuls of my fairly standard size kitchen sink. 7! For 12 people's-worth of stuff!
I'm not myself concerned all that much about conserving water, but I am a normal person, so I don't wash my dishes under running water. I fill the sink up with water, stick in some washing-up liquid as it fills, then once it's mostly full (12-15L of water?) I use that. Total use per wash is then 12-15L. Maybe a bit more if I give something a rinse. (Very much optional in my view for most items - but some things do need it.)
You can wash a lot of stuff in that much water! So that's why I am a bit surprised at people using 120L to wash twelve places'-worth. That's eight times the amount I'd use for washing 3-4 people's-worth of stuff and all the items used to prepare the food in the first place.
(I think my dishwasher uses 17L per wash so I don't worry too much about using that instead. I am quite lazy.)
Also, glass is a better material than steel for food applications, and glass straws exist, so they are probably a better choice (unless there's a significant chance of breakage like giving them to small children).